When can I walk normally after ACL surgery?

The rehab for ACL surgery takes many months and lots of hard work with a physical therapist. Most active people aim to return to sports or demanding exercise. When, though, can you return to simply walking without a limp? In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I answer that question for someone preparing to undergo ACL reconstruction.

Suvankar asks:
I am thinking about having ACL surgery. I am not a sportsman. When could I get back to normal walking after surgery?

The postoperative restrictions a patient must follow differ between orthopedic surgeons. Some surgeons allow full weightbearing right away, while others keep the patient on crutches for weeks after surgery. Often other findings during surgery, such as a meniscus tear, influence the restrictions.

Once the surgeon allows weightbearing, the patient works to get off crutches and walk with a normal gait. Doing so requires getting full knee motion – getting the knee all the way straight and gaining enough bending of the knee – to walk without a limp.

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In this video, I explain some of the factors that can cause a patient to limp as he tries to walk in the weeks after ACL reconstruction and how he can overcome it quickly and safely.

Have you had ACL surgery? How long did it take you to walk normally after the surgery? I’d love to hear your experience below!

Also read:
Ask Dr. Geier – When can you return to sports after ACL surgery?
Ask Dr. Geier – Early rehabilitation after ACL surgery

Please remember, while I appreciate your questions, I cannot and will not offer specific medical advice by email, online, on my show, or in the comments at the end of these posts. My responses are meant to provide general medical information and education. Please consult your physician or health care provider for your specific medical concerns.

6 Responses to When can I walk normally after ACL surgery?

  1. Hi I m an Indian. I had complete tear of ACL n PCL. It was reconstructed. I am instructed not to walk for 3 weeks. I also have to wear hinge knee brace which does not allow me to fold my legs. Is this procedure correct or I can walk immediately after surgery?

    • I’d go with whatever your surgeon recommend as far as the brace and weightbearing. Good luck in your recovery!

  2. Hey David, nice video! Very often asked question, so relevant to discuss. What I experienced as an ACL pt myself was a patellofemoral tracking issue, which blocked me in extension, due to relative weakness of the VMO, and that is why I wasn’t able to walk properly without crutches for more than 4 weeks after surgery. Was an eyeopener for myself. So I always warn pts now to not rush it coming off the crutches and mostly to concentrate on ROM, isometric training and reduction of swelling in those first weeks. Cheers, Suzanne

  3. My Doctor wants to do 2 knees at once. He wants to to exploratory surgery on both knees. I am so afraid,that he might find more things wrong and I will not be able to walk. Am I wrong to feel this way?

    • I’m generally not a huge fan of operating on both knees at the same time. Other surgeons might feel differently, though.

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david-headshot I am an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina.

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