Faster Recoveries After ACL Reconstructions: The Exciting Potential of Electro-Stimulation

knee-electrod

In the center of each of your knees, there’s an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). These ligaments are positioned diagonally. ACL injuries are fairly common, especially for athletes. To repair the damage, surgeons will sometimes graft tissues onto an ACL. That operation is an ACL reconstruction.

After such a reconstruction, it’s easy for the muscles around the knee, including the hamstrings and the quadriceps, to weaken as they’re not being utilized enough. Exercises can help the situation. But, increasingly, doctors are prescribing electrical muscle stimulation, which is also known as electro-stimulation, to aid their patients.

A Groundbreaking Study

In 2012, the medical journal “Clinical Rehabilitation” published the results of a study that examined the effects of electro-stimulation on ACL reconstruction patients. This survey was set up as follows:

  • A total of 28 participants underwent five weekly rehabilitation sessions over the course of six weeks.
  • Half of those individuals performed exercises and were given ice during their sessions.
  • The other 14 subjects exercised and received icing, and they also underwent 20 minutes of electro-stimulation each time.

A Series of Discoveries

The results of this study were clear. The people who were administered electro-stimulation saw their swelling go down considerably after the first week. They experienced less pain as well. These three benefits were also noteworthy:

  • After two weeks and again after eight weeks, they showed fewer signs of muscle atrophy.
  • After two weeks, eight weeks, and 12 weeks, they could extend their knees further than the members of the group that wasn’t getting electro-stimulation.
  • After 12 weeks, their knees were more functional in general.

Reasons to Be Hopeful

Granted, this research project was merely a pilot study. Among its deficiencies, it didn’t have a large group of subjects, and it didn’t involve a placebo. Nevertheless, it represents a starting point for scientific inquiry into electro-stimulation and ACL reconstruction recovery, and its conclusions are promising.

At this time, it’s almost certain that people who go through ACL reconstruction lose less muscle mass with electro-stimulation treatments than they would if they relied on exercise alone. Now, that’s not to suggest that ACL reconstruction patients should give up exercise altogether. Exercise, of course, is always important for toning muscles and maintaining cardiovascular health. It’s just that, with the help of electro-stimulation, a patient will likely end up dealing with less pain, swelling, and atrophy.

With all of this information in mind, if you’re a doctor or a rehabilitation specialist who works with ACL reconstruction patients, it’s a great idea to learn as much as you can about the electro-stimulation process. People often look forward to their electro-stimulation sessions, which can be really soothing. Indeed, they can ease some of the anxiety that often accompanies injuries.

Then, once your patients realize how much faster they are recuperating, they’re sure to be grateful to you and the electro-stimulation technology that you’ve adopted.