ACL knee injuries rank among the most common types of knee injuries. Technically, ACL refers to the anterior cruciate ligament, and these injuries can happen regardless of whether you’re active in sports or just physically active. There are ways to prevent ACL injuries, and chiropractic care can help you manage the symptoms of an ACL tear or other damage.
What Is an ACL Tear or Injury?
The knee joint has four bones: the tibia, femur, and patella. Tendons connect the joint to muscles in the shin, calf and thigh. There are two fibrous discs of cartilage within the joint that cushion the movement of the bones, and four ligaments assist in stabilising the joint.
The four ligaments include the cruciate ligament, lateral collateral ligament, medial collateral ligament and anterior cruciate ligament, also known as the ACL. Tears in the ACL bands are commonly caused when putting excessive pressure on the knee involving sudden stops, twisting to prevent a fall, changing direction suddenly, jumping and landing. That is why the injuries are so common among soccer, basketball and skiing participants, but the damages are hardly limited to athletes.
Many victims of ACL injuries hear or experience a sudden popping´ sensation when the injury happens. The knee might swell, no longer bear your weight or generate tremendous pain. The ACL ligament is one of two that cross the middle of the knee, and it connects the shin bone to the thigh bone. Despite expectations, women receive about seven to eight times as many ACL injuries as men because of the anatomical and hormonal differences between men and women.
Symptoms of an ACL Injury
Your doctor or chiropractor might perform tests to determine your injury’s exact nature and extent. Typical causes of an ACL injury include the following activities:
- Suddenly slowing down or changing direction
- Stopping walking or running suddenly
- Landing awkwardly during a jump or jumping too great a distance
- Pivoting with one foot firmly planted
- Receiving a blow to the knee or colliding with an object
The symptoms of an ACL injury include the popping experience, sudden severe pain and swelling of the knee within the first few hours after the injury. Some injuries might be noticed later. Your knee might feel like something snapped, and walking or bending the knee becomes impossible. Your doctor might conduct any of the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:
- X-rays and Arthroscopy
X-rays can rule out possible bone fractures that might occur regardless of whether the ligament is damaged. Arthroscopy, which consists of placing a small camera in the knee, can determine the extent of the damage, and the procedure can be done on an outpatient basis.
- Palpation and Observation
Your healthcare professional usually starts by observing the knee to determine the extent of the swelling, bruising and other deformities. Usually, the treatment will begin by palpating the area to see if a more serious tear is likely.
- Lachman’s Test
The treatment professional will have you lie down and bend your knee at a 30-degree angle. They will steady your thigh and the top of the shin while moving the tibia back and forth. If the leg moves loosely, that indicates an ACL tear.
- Pivot Shift Test
With your leg extended, the doctor turns your foot while applying pressure to the exterior of the knee. If the shin is unstable, an ACL tear is diagnosed.
- Anterior Drawer Test
Lying down with your knees flexed at 80- to 90 degrees, the medical professional will stabilise your foot, pull the tibia back and forth, and compare it to the movement of your uninjured knee.
How Chiropractors Can Help
Chiropractic is a healthcare speciality that deals with spine injuries and injuries to other joints. A hands-on approach guides the practice because the name means to be done by hand. Chiropractors use hand adjustments — and occasionally tools — to restore function and relieve pain while avoiding unnecessary surgeries and drugs.
Chiropractic care is devoted to the overall health of the joints and nervous system, and it can help with pain and disabilities at the most basic level — depending on the severity of your injury. Minor ACL tears often go unnoticed until more severe pain or functional disabilities develop. Whether you should treat minor tears with surgery or drugs is questionable, which can lead to addiction. Chiropractic can’t restore the connections between torn fibres, but it can relieve pain, discomfort and limited function while your body heals naturally.
Chiropractic Treatments for ACL Tears and Injuries
Not treating your ACL injury can result in increased pain and dysfunction, and the injury can affect other areas of the body. Chiropractic treatments can rest, increase mobility, improve performance and reduce pain to manageable levels. Many people also use chiropractic to help with recovery from knee surgery.
For example, after surgery to repair a ruptured ACL, the surgeon might prescribe a course of chiropractic rehabilitation to restore the knee’s function for a professional athlete. Chiropractic care also focuses on avoiding further injuries and aggravating the damage.
Manipulating the knee joint with dexterity and skill helps to restore joint motion and speed the healing of any injury. That’s especially useful for treating ACL sprains where the ligament is stretched without tearing. In cases of ACL tears, manipulation helps restore proper knee function as the injury heals.
Surgery should always be considered an extreme measure when the injury is severe. Therapeutic ultrasound treatment is one option that chiropractors use to generate heat and stimulate blood flow to the healing area, which delivers more nutrients and oxygen for healing.
Muscle Massage and Therapy
Massaging the muscles of the thighs, legs, and ankles can provide signature relief from ACL-related pain and performance issues.
Doctors always recommend eating healthily, and chiropractors can improve healing by recommending a healthy diet that provides necessary nutrients and avoids fats, cholesterol and other dietary toxins.
Cold Laser Therapy
Some chiropractors use cold laser therapies to reduce inflammation, relieve pain and treat ACL injuries. The technology works remarkably well for treating muscle, ligament, connective tissue, bone and nerve injuries.
ACL Injury Statistics
More common in women than men, ACL injuries happen with astonishing frequency in the United Kingdom. From 2016 to 2017, 133,270 cases of surgical repair of torn ACLs were recorded. That doesn’t include milder cases where surgery — for whatever reasons — wasn’t pursued. The rate of meniscal repair and ACL reconstruction has increased across all geographic regions, and the incidents of ACL injuries have steadily risen over the past two decades.
Diagnosis and Treatment Recommendations
Seeing a chiropractor after sustaining a relatively mild ACL injury makes medical and financial sense. Treatment costs are generally less, chiropractic treatment qualifies for insurance coverage, and there’s usually a shorter wait time for non-emergency consultations. Chiropractors are knowledgeable about joint injuries, and your treatment professional will immediately refer you to a qualified specialist if your injuries warrant surgery or more drastic treatment options.
Chiropractic care usually follows a whole-person approach that considers your health, other disorders, weight and age when developing a treatment plan. One of the bonuses of seeing your chiropractor is that they will recommend proactive measures to exercise your legs safely, train for sports activities and strengthen your core muscles to prevent aggravating your injuries and sustaining future injuries. Some of these proactive measures include:
- Recommended Program of Exercise
Strengthening your leg muscles can prevent ACL injuries and limit the damage from accidents.
- Training Expertise
Training takes a well-balanced system of exercise, and your chiropractor can recommend using the proper techniques and knee position when jumping and landing or pivoting and cutting.
- Everyday Advice
Your chiropractor can educate you about the risks of ACL injuries from everyday activities.
- Strengthening the Hamstrings
Most chiropractors recommend strengthening the hamstrings as the best way to prevent ACL injuries because they help maintain your balance in tricky situations.
- Correcting Posture Problems
Correcting your posture can go a long way in preventing leg injuries of all types. Getting a neurology exam from your chiropractor is a great way to learn how your muscles work and how to train yourself in the correct exercise techniques.
The Value of Chiropractic Treatment
ACL tears and injuries are common issues that many people sustain. Often, some contributory injuries and deficiencies exacerbate the injury. Failure to treat the condition can result in permanent knee damage, an inability to move the knee or difficulty controlling your movements. This can result in bone friction and a condition called chronic ACL deficiency. The development of osteoarthritis is a strong possibility. Chiropractors can reduce your pain, relieve further damage and give you an environment conducive to healing.
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