Walking after ACL and Meniscus Surgery: Stages, Tips, and Expectations

Recovering from ACL and meniscus surgery can be a challenging process, and one of the most important milestones is regaining your normal walking abilities. Whether you had ACL reconstruction or repair, or both, following a structured rehabilitation protocol and taking care of your body can help you walk faster, reduce swelling, and decrease the risk of complications. In this article, we will cover the stages of post-surgery walking, useful tips to enhance your recovery, and common questions answered.

Stage 1: Start By Walking With Crutches After ACL Surgery

In the first stage of post-surgery walking, you might need to use crutches or a walking aid to keep weight off your operated leg and allow the healing process to begin. This initial period usually lasts up to two weeks, although your doctor or physiotherapist will give you specific advice that suits your case.

ACL Walking Normally Tip 1: It is recommended to begin walking as soon as possible, usually the day of the surgery, to maintain joint mobility and prevent blood clots. However, avoid putting weight on your operated leg and follow the prescribed exercises and movements.

Stage 2: Progress To Walking With One Crutch After ACL Surgery

In the second stage, you can start to put partial weight on your operated leg and gradually transition to walking with one crutch. This stage typically lasts another two weeks or so and aims to improve your balance, coordination, and muscle strength.

ACL Walking Normally Tip 4: Using a stationary bike or a heel slide board can help you perform low-impact exercises that enhance blood flow, flexibility, and range of motion.

Stage 3: Transition to Walking Without Crutches After ACL Surgery

After approximately four to six weeks, you can progress to walking without crutches or a walking aid, as long as you feel comfortable and stable. However, you might still need to wear a brace or use compression bandages to reduce swelling and support your knee joint.

ACL Walking Normally Tip 6: Elevating your leg, applying ice packs, and taking prescribed painkillers can help ease the swelling and soreness associated with the surgery.

Stage 4: Aim To Walk With A Normal Gait After ACL Surgery

The final stage of walking after ACL surgery is to restore your normal gait pattern, which involves walking with a balanced, smooth, and efficient motion that resembles your pre-injury status. This stage usually takes several weeks or months, depending on your age, fitness level, motivation, and adherence to rehabilitation guidelines.

ACL Walking Normally Tip 8: Walking in shallow water, such as a swimming pool, can reduce the pressure on your knee joint and enhance your balance and coordination.

Factors that can impact when can you walk after ACL surgery

The timing and effectiveness of your post-surgery walking depend on various factors, such as:

  • The type and extent of surgery you had, including ACL reconstruction, repair, meniscus surgery, or a combination
  • Your overall health status, including any pre-existing health conditions or after-surgery complications
  • Your age, weight, and lifestyle habits, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, or poor nutrition
  • Your dedication to the rehabilitation regime and attending follow-up appointments


What are the possible complications of ACL surgery?

Some of the common complications of ACL surgery include infection, bleeding, blood clots, nerve or blood vessel damage, stiffness, loss of range of motion, and failure of the graft or repair. It is essential to communicate with your doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms or concerns during the recovery process.

When does rehabilitation start after an ACL reconstruction?

Rehabilitation usually starts immediately after surgery with the guidance of a physiotherapist or an experienced medical professional. The first phase of rehabilitation includes gentle exercises, pain management, and knee protection, while the following phases focus on strengthening, restoring movement, and eventually returning to sports or physical activities.

How is rehabilitation after an ACL reconstruction typically structured?

Rehabilitation after an ACL reconstruction is usually structured into several stages, each with specific goals, exercises, and timelines. The common stages are pre-surgery rehabilitation, immediate post-surgery rehabilitation, early-stage rehabilitation, functional stage rehabilitation, and return-to-sport stage rehabilitation. The duration and intensity of each stage depend on individual factors and surgical outcomes.

ACL Surgery: how long do I need to use my crutches/brace?

The crutches or brace are typically used for two to six weeks, depending on the type of surgery, the extent of the damage, and the progress of recovery. Your doctor or physiotherapist will advise you on when and how to gradually reduce your reliance on external support and promote weight-bearing and walking.

What type of follow-up is done after an ACL reconstruction?

After an ACL reconstruction, you will likely have regular follow-up appointments with your doctor or physiotherapist to evaluate your progress, assess your knee joint function, and adjust your rehabilitation program accordingly. Some of the follow-up tests may include physical examination, imaging tests, and functional assessments.


Walking after ACL and meniscus surgery is a crucial step towards restoring your mobility, confidence, and quality of life. By following a structured rehabilitation protocol, taking care of your body, and seeking professional help when needed, you can speed up your recovery and achieve the desired results. Always listen to your doctors advice, communicate your concerns and progress, and stay motivated to reach your walking goals!