Will an ACL Tear Heal on Its Own?

Will an ACL Tear Heal on Its Own?

More than 400,000 ACL injuries happen every year in the United States. The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is a significant ligament in the knee. Injury often happens when you change direction quickly, such as in football and soccer, but it can happen during daily activities, too. 

At Silicon Valley Orthopaedics, located in Fremont, California, Nic Gay, MD, Masi Reynolds, DO, and April Mancuso, MD, treat people with ACL tears and other injuries. ACL tears don’t heal on their own, and surgery is the best way to correct tears if you want to return to full activity. If you’re fine with lifestyle modifications, other treatments outside of surgery can help you live with an ACL tear. 

Here’s what our team wants you to know about ACL tears so you can determine your best treatment plan.

How do I know I have an ACL tear?

The best way to know you have an ACL tear is to be diagnosed in our office during a physical exam and possible X-rays. But, you should suspect one if you hear a loud popping sound at the moment of the injury. Some people find they can’t bear weight on the injured leg or that the knee feels unstable. 

You often experience severe pain at the moment of the injury. When you try to stand, the pain intensifies. Your knee will likely swell, too. 

Not everyone with an ACL tear experiences significant pain and swelling, however. Some may feel like they can continue to play their sport or do daily activities. This doesn’t mean you should, though.

What if I don’t want surgery for my ACL tear?

If you have a small tear, you may be able to recover by wearing a brace and undergoing rehabilitation. Pain medications help reduce pain after the initial injury. Rest reduces inflammation.

Physical therapy helps stabilize your joint and prevent further damage.

But, if you don’t get surgery for your ACL, you’ll need to commit to lifestyle changes and movement modifications for the long term. 

When is surgery for an ACL tear necessary?

People who experience a complete ACL tear or those who have persistent instability will need surgical repair. Even if you have a mild tear, you’ll need surgery if you want to return to your previous level of activity. Because there is no blood supply to the ligament, the tissue just cannot heal on its own.

If you’re an athlete who wants to return to your sport, workouts, and training, surgery is usually required. Without it, you will not be able to perform quick movements. 

At Silicon Valley Orthopaedics, we specialize in minimally invasive surgery techniques. Our surgeons use tiny incisions to repair your injury, so you experience faster healing, less blood loss, and a reduced risk of complications. 


If you have knee pain, contact Silicon Valley Orthopaedics right away. Call or use this website to schedule your visit.

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