A torn ACL is tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, the piece of tissue that connects your femur bone to the tibia bone. Treatment may involve surgery to repair the tear, after which rehabilitation through physical therapy may be recommended. For cases of non-surgical treatment, rehabilitation to establish range of motion for the knee joint is necessary. Some types of exercises in physical therapy, such as cycling, are safe and beneficial for restoring use of the knee after a torn ACL.
A torn ACL often occurs as a result of sports, particularly when an individual pivots on the knee with the foot in a stationary position or jumps and lands forcefully on the knee joint. If you tear your ACL, you might have difficulty with putting weight on your knee and it may feel unstable or may collapse under your weight. Additional symptoms may include a popping sound at the point of injury, pain and swelling in the affected joint. Depending on the extent of the injury, you may need surgery to correct this condition. Whether you go with a non-surgical treatment or you need surgery and rehabilitation, you might be limited in your weight-bearing activities.
Following a torn ACL, you may enter a rehabilitation program to reduce pain and restore function to your knee. Bicycling, often on a stationary bike through physical therapy, can improve range of motion in the knee joint. Because you may be unable to put much weight on your affected knee, rehabilitation works to regain some stability that might have been lost. Riding a bicycle improves circulation to the lower extremities and also works the muscles both above and below the knee, which can improve support for the joint, the Cartilage Health website explains.
Benefits of Bicycling
Riding a bike, particularly a stationary bike, with a torn ACL provides several benefits that can improve the process of healing. Bicycling is a low-impact activity and is not weight-bearing, in that much of your weight is placed on the bike rather than your lower extremities. Bicycling also provides range-of-motion exercises to move the knee joint and support the cartilage. With a stationary bike that has specific settings, you can control the amount of resistance you put on your knees while cycling and, depending on your level of injury and pain, you can cycle as fast or as slowly as you can tolerate.
Cycling may be part of a rehabilitation program on a stationary bike while you are beginning the process of healing. Over time, you may expect to eventually ride a regular bike again outside once your doctor has given permission. Once you begin using an outdoor bike, try to avoid riding routes that have a large number of hills, as going uphill can add further strain to your knee. Adjust the gears to a low level that allows for a minimum of 90 repetitions per minute, Cartilage Health instructs. Pedaling at a slower pace may also put more pressure on your knee. Work slowly to build up your tolerance for outdoor cycling and ensure that you have spent time on a stationary bike first to know that you can tolerate riding outside after your injury.
- Hospital for Special Surgery; Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tears; Thomas L. Wickiewicz, M.D.; Oct. 13, 2009
- University of California, San Francisco; Isolated Anterior Cruciate Injury and Reconstruction; Jennifer Kim, Joe Smith; January 2009
- Cartilage Health; Cycling for Knee Rehabilitation; 2009