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How long does it take to regain walking stability in Partially Torn ACL?

After 2 weeks, my knee is still unstable after being diagnosed with a partial tear to my ACL. Been doing light Physical Therapy, but still can't put too much pressure on the leg for walking normally. How long does it take to regain stability so you can walk normally without a limp or crutches on a partially torn ACL?

5 Answers


It took me a little over a month until I could walk straight down stairs (somewhat) normally (still holding on to railing). The 3 to 4 week period after (partially) tearing your ACL is probably when most people start feeling more normal and gaining back strength and balance that you lost after the injury. However, just because one starts feeling better around this time, it does NOT mean your knee / ACL is in good shape. Unfortunately, you're not out of the woods, so you should not try to resume your prior level of activity unless you want to do further damage.

Here's my progress at regaining stability after partially tearing my ACL:

- (Mid February) First injured left knee ACL in bad Giant Slalom ski racing fall where I hit a rut just after a fall away gate, got kicked forward, head hit the ground and my knee got hyperextended, which I believe is what tore the ACL. Then the knee got twisted around some more in the fall due to being unable to control the ski with the bad knee while getting spun around (the ski binding never pre-released).

- First few days, R.I.C.E. knee. Tried to avoid "walking", could only do a shuffle limp walk.

- Still only shuffle walk limp, no pressure on injured knee, used cane or walker to get around

- 5 Days after injury, went to see Orthopedic doctor, who thought it was a fully torn ACL. Had X-rays and MRI that same day.

- Next day, was told that it was a Partially Torn ACL of my left knee... Meniscus was good. Outside/Inside ligments in knee were good.

- End of first week, major swelling was down.

- [Second week], quad sets, straight leg raises, heel slides.

- Middle of 2nd week, started exercise bike w/ no resitence peddling backwards then forwards very slow w/ just left heel on peddle.

- [Third week] Beginning of 3rd week after injury, started baby step walking very slowly

- Middle of 3rd week (March 4th): Walking with limp, but bigger steps. Still can NOT walk up or down steps properly (just one leg up / down).

- 3rd week (March 5th): Walked up stairs normally, but holding onto handrail for lots of support. Can not walk down stairs.

- (March 6th): Taking bigger limping steps (without cane). Walking up stairs with handrail support. Did not use cane today for walking around.

- [4th week] (March 8th & 9th): Started walking on treadmill at 2 mph for 5 mins. Riding spin bike for 10 mins 3x a day. Still can NOT walk down stairs. Only using cane when walking outside.

- (March 10th): Working on stepping down with injured knee on drops of around 6 inches.

- (March 11th): Started trying to walk down stairs diagnally NOT straight down (w/ injured left knee on top stairs, step down with right foot). Cycling 10-15 mins 3 to 4 times. Squating too far down is painful to left knee. Noticable atrophy in left leg quad. Walking fairly normal without cane.

- (March 13th): Quad muscle is getting a little stronger. Still about the same routine as on March 11th. Working on walking down stairs. Did no weight Very small leg presses today. 10 min walk on treadmill. Cycling up to 20 minutes.

- (March 17th): Been getting closer to walking down steps. Walking diagnally down, stepping down w/ right leg to the back of upward left (torn acl) leg seems to work well. Been cycling, walking, light leg hamstring curls, light leg presses.

- (March 19th): Walked down steps pretty normally, without pain. Cycling 20 mins 3 times day, Walking 20 mins on treadmill. Stretching

- (March 25th): Still able to walk down stairs fairly normally without pain (straight down), while holding onto railing. Cycling up to 20 minutes / 3x a day. Walking on treadmill 20 mins. Leg curls w/ 5lbs. Leg presses w/ no weight. Not having much pain, but knee is still uneasy/unstable at times. Still don't have much confidence in the knee. Going to see Orthopedic doctor tomorrow, and expect to have surgery to repair Partially Torn ACL soon. Need to determine which surgery is better for my case: ACL Reconstruction vs. ACL Augmentation for partial tear?

- (March 27th): Saw well respected Knee doctor, recommended six more weeks of PT.  It's possible the tear may not need surgery... But I'm doubtful

- (March 30th): Started light jogging for 5 mins on treadmill. (only did twice, but have since seeing my PT on Apr 7th.)

- (April 7th): Started official PT on Apr. 7th. (Should have been in PT early, like a week or two after injury)

- (April 19th): Knee has been getting stronger with PT exercises, cycling, still a bit unstable walking down stairs.  Hiked 3 miles today (first hike since injury), knee gave out twice when I wasn't paying attention.  Over the last 9 weeks it seems to give out about once per day, usually when I try to do harder things, which are pretty basic to someone with healthy knees (hiking, walking down stairs, side lunges, etc.)  

NOTE: The one thing I learned is that you will lose muscle extremely fast in your injured leg.  So do your best to start the ACL injury execises/stretches throughout the day as soon as you can or else you risk extreme muscle atrophy in your leg. Essentially, get into official Physical Therapy as soon as the week following your injury. I should have started going to a Phyiscal Therapist much sooner, if I did I might not have lost as much muscle as I did in the first couple weeks, and be in better shape overall going into surgery.

Using an exercise bike was pretty much essential for recovery in the early stages of my recovery in order to get movement back. About a week after my injury, I decided to purchase the Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycling Bike from amazon, which I think has been very helpful for my recovery before (and will be after surgery). However, my injured left knee/leg is still noticably weaker than my right leg.  I'd also recommend the following book Knee Surgery: The Essential Guide to Total Knee Recovery, which has lots of exercises/stretches and plans for before and after ACL knee surgery.

UPDATE: On May 12th, I had ACL Reconstruction Surgery on my Left Knee. It was just too unstable.  Not being able to perform a Side Lunge without having pain or my knee giving out after rehabing for as long as I did, was a huge tell tale sign for me "mentally" that I did in fact need to have surgery and my "partially torn ACL" was not going to hold up to any real physical demands over the long-term. After surgery, I was told by one of my doctors that the ACL was basically fully torn, with a only few threads of the ligament keeping it together. Which just goes to show really good doctors aren't able to see exactly how bad of a condition your ACL and/or knee may be in by just from looking at an MRI. 

If you're getting ready to have ACL surgery be sure check out the following article I wrote:  40+ Tips to Prepare for ACL Knee Surgery Recovery (Home & Self)

Wow I read the 40 tips and now I'm really scared of the surgery.

I was also completely torn my ACL 5 weeks ago.
2 weeks since i torn my ACL i can walk with knee bent on my injured leg
and now i can walk normally with my injured leg, but of course i can't walk fast or run and jump
but i still can go upstair and downstair slowly with no problem
all we have to do after swelling and pain decrease, do some exercise to strenghten our leg muscle and recover RoM of our knee

I was playing football last week Thursday during my Game I got injured and the next day I visited a doctor he told me we need to put MRI to this leg after the result of the MRI I was told my ACL was torn partially
One doctor told me I have to except surgery before accepting I visited an othet Dr he told to rest and use knee brace 4 two weeks and gave me some pain killer I can bend my leg after a week but can straightforward nd can't put my weight on the injured leg
What is your advice
I only feel pain when I strech the leg and the swell is reducing daily


You should get into official Physical Therapy (PT) right away. Ask your doctor to write a prescription for PT and schedule an appointment ASAP. The longer you wait to start doing exercises, the more muscle you will lose. Your PT will give you the proper exercise progression to follow and to help determine whether or not you need surgery. If you don't have lateral stability in your knee, you'll need to have surgery if you want to continue playing sports like soccer (football). In the meantime, start getting your leg active by doing quad sets, get on an exercise bike, do body weight squats, and lunges (don't push it too hard). The longer you wait, the longer your recovery will be, especially if you need to have surgery. Having and retaining muscle in your leg, quad, hips, glutes is key to recoverying from surgery faster. Good luck!

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