Week 1, ACL Recovery

Some guy enjoying the NuStep reclining step machineMeet my new love.  No, not the guy.  The machine.  It’s called a NuStep.  We met at Physical Therapy, on my second visit, and I want to move in together.   Well, I’d at least like to have one at home for a few weeks.  It’s a reclining step machine.  And, it’s great for getting that knee moving in a controlled way. Unlike a bike, the pedals just go back and forth. No rotation.   You can sit back and take it nice and slow.  Very relaxing and rewarding.  I can feel that knee stretching oh so nicely.

To be honest, I kind of feel that way about a lot of my physical therapy.  So far, the exercises haven’t been painful (except maybe pushing the flexion), and usually feel quite good. I enjoy being able to impress the therapists with some of the things I can do and appreciate getting encouragement and feedback.   The only hard part has been trusting the leg when working on weight bearing.  It’s the ‘couples therapy’ part of the process. So far, the knee hasn’t let me down, and I haven’t pushed it too far. We’re starting to build up trust again.

Mostly, it’s just been mental.  It’s been beautiful out, and I’m starting to get a bit of cabin fever.   I miss not being physically active.  I miss karate.  I miss being able to pick up my sons and tickle them to the floor.  I’m sick of sleeping on my back with my leg elevated.  I miss being able to check out the karate-induced callouses on the bottom of my left foot. (Yeah, I know. Yuck.) Thank god for books, blogs, the rest of the Internet, and DVDs.

It’s been tough on the family. My wife’s been pulling a lot of extra bedtime and morning duty.  I’ve been doing most things for myself, but I am kind of in the middle of everything down here on our first floor. It’s probably been hardest on our two sons, neither of whom is used to having a father who doesn’t run around with them having pillow fights or playing with foam swords and armor.  The only member of the family who still seems to be enjoying this is our cat Josephine, who has yet to cease her furry ministrations.

Still, it hasn’t been as bad as I might have thought.  The phantom leg stuff seems to have stopped.  The knee seems good and strong.  It’s still tight, but  it seems to be getting a bit looser and less swollen every day.  A good start.

So with all that said, here’s the week in stats:

Week 1 Benchmarks


  • Hamstring and calf stretches, 4 each for 30 seconds, at least 3 times per day.
  • Ankle rotations, 20 each way, at least 3 times per day.
  • Ankle pumps, 20, at least 3 times per day.
  • Leg raises (slow descent), 2 sets of 10, 1-3 times per day.
  • Heel slides, 2 sets of 10, 1-3 times per day.
  • Weight shift, 1 set of 10, 1-3 times  per day.  (Standing on one leg on day 7).
  • Step and lean, 1 set of 10, 1-3 times per day.
  • NuStep, 10 minute sessions at PT, days 5 and 7.
  • Incline squats (80% weight bearing), 20, days 5 and 7.
  • Bike machine, 10 minute session, full rotations(!), day 7


  • 90 degrees on day 3.
  • 100 degrees on day 5.
  • 105 degrees flexion on day 7.


  • Two crutches, days 1-3.
  • One crutch, days 4-7.
  • No crutch, day 7.
  • Brace, days 1-7 (and continuing).
  • No brace, occasionally in the house, days 5-7.

Pain and Meds

  • Pain worst around stitches the first few days.  Some aching and tightness from swelling.
  • Brace, which wasn’t fitted correctly, caused my calf and hamstring to tighten when I first started trying to walk properly.  Very counterproductive. Make sure to ask your physical therapist for help!
  • Percocet, days 1-2, 5mg every 4 or so hours. 
  • Vicodin, days 3, 5, and 7 before physical therapy.
  • Tylenol, days 3-7 (ibuprophen prohibited by my surgeon until post-op visit).
  • R.I.C.E. – days 1-7.  As much as possible! Ice before exercises has been especially helpful. 

7 Responses

  1. That machine looks great! I can see how you fell in love. Amen on wanting to stop sleeping with the leg elevated. How did people ever get through this stuff without the internet?! It really helps to know that you aren’t alone. I just wish we could all meet for coffee one day…

  2. You are doing great!

    I was fortunate to have minimal pain throughout my recovery. I had more back pain than knee pain from the crutches.

    The reinforcement from PT is priceless. I could not wait for my appointments so my progress could be measured.

  3. The oddest part of my experience was beginning weight bearing.

    During the first PT session, my quads wouldn’t even fire, which–honestly–set me off in fits of giggles! My gentle, caring PT took the time to work the leg through some ROM and specific massage, and we got it moving by the end of the session.

    Once I could bear weight, the biggest challenge was getting the quads to fire PROPORTIONATELY. In the beginning my quads would just fire all at once, rather than gently picking up the strain! I felt rather like the tin woodsman in the Wizard of Oz with jerky, stiff leg movements. Strange stuff, and yet also really funny.

  4. I hear you on the kids front. I had a hard time with that too. My two-year old would sit at the top of the stairs and cry because I couldn’t carry her down like I used to do. You’ll be back soon, so don’t despair.

    I always loved going to PT. Still do in fact. I like measurable progress and positive feedback from someone who knows is always uplifting. You are doing quite well with flexion. Keep up the good work!

  5. Ooh, wanted to say too that you can sleep on your side. If you align the pillows just right, you can roll onto your right side with your left leg propped up on pillows. The key is having the proper pillow alignment so your leg is supported from hip to toe. I was much happier when I figured out how to do that.

    Ask too about unlocking your brace to sleep. As long as your extension is good, that will come soon.

  6. Best of luck! You’re doing great, and you’ll zip through this (though it won’t always feel that way to you).

  7. […] Still doing most of the exercises from Week 1. […]

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