Manage ACL Injuries with Yoga

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four ligaments that stabilises your knee joint, connecting the bones in your thigh to your shin. The ACL forms an X with the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) to prevent the knee from sliding forwards/backwards and prevents rotations. Without a normal ACL, your knee becomes unstable and can buckle in abrupt motions. You will also find that all the muscles connected to the torn ACL becomes stiffer due to a re-programming of the central nervous system to project the injured area from further injuries.  

Function of Rehabilitative Training

In the long run, non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy is important in managing torn ACL conditions. Such rehabilitation programs focus on increasing the strength of the other knee stabilisers, which includes the major muscles of the thigh, such as the quadriceps and the hamstrings. Proprioception training will help prevent future injuries and deterioration by increasing our subconscious body awareness to react faster to protect an injured joint. Finally, gentle stretches should be regularly incorporated to counter muscle stiffness around the injured knee.

Yoga for Rehabilitation

There are a number of yoga asanas that can aid in the rehabilitation process of partially torn or surgically re-constructed ACLs. Depending on the choice of asanas, this program can adequately cover strength, flexibility, proprioception and neuromuscular control. Here is a lesson plan that I have designed for ACL rehabilitation:

  1. Sun Salutations A &B
  2. Trikonasana
  3. Parivritta Trikonasana
  4. Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (include hops on grounded feet)
  5. Virabhadrasana 3
  6. Dancer’s Pose
  7. Vriksasana (close eyes to improve proprioception) 
  8. Vakrasana
  9. Pursvottanasana
  10. Downward Dog
  11. Sethu Bandasana (use one leg at a time to increase challenge)
  12. Sirsasana
  13. Savasana

When to Stop 

While I’ve been advised not to do the lotus pose due to my partially torn ACL, I’ve thankfully been able to continue executing this pose without pain. My limitations (for now) are asanas that require a deeper rotation of the hips and knees, particularly the Marichyasana D. That said, always stop at the first sign of a sharp pain when working on any exercise program. Listen to your body to know what you can and cannot do, keeping in mind that every body is different. If you’ve had a torn ACL like me, I welcome you to join me in practice!

 

– Vanessa Tang –

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