What to Buy Before ACL Surgery

What to Buy Before ACL Surgery

ACL , Injury

As you prepare for ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) surgery, there are several things that you can purchase to help make your recovery at home easier. Everyone’s timeline in ACL recovery is different and restrictions may vary depending on your specific surgery. We can show you what to buy before ACL surgery to make your recovery as smooth as possible.

Immediately After ACL Surgery

Typically you will spend a few days at home without a lot of activity. You will be able to get back to work and school using crutches sometime in the next week. From there, how quickly you can ditch the crutches and walk around normally will depend on the restrictions following your surgery and how quickly you are able to get your quad activation back, but usually sometime between 2 and 6 weeks you can start walking without crutches.

Here are some ideas of items of what to buy before ACL surgery:

A Good Ice Pack

Ice will help after surgery largely with pain control. There is solid scientific evidence that the use of ice after ACL surgery will lead to decreased use of pain medications, and overall lower reports of pain. There is no right or wrong ice product; you could use everything from a bag of frozen peas to a ziplock bag filled with ice from your freezer. However, two of our favorite ice products are the Game Ready or the Hyperice Knee sleeve.

An Electrical Stim Machine

There are two main benefits to using electrical stimulation after ACL surgery: 

  1. Pain control – Using a TENs machine on your knee after surgery can help with pain management.
  1. Get your quadricep muscle firingWhat does this mean? Immediately following surgery, you will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to activate the quadricep muscle on the front of your thigh. This is normal and expected after surgery. However, as part of your therapy program, you want to get that muscle working as quickly as possible. 

Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation has been shown as a safe and effective way to improve your quadricep muscle activation after surgery. Your physical therapist should be using this technique with you at your visits, but having a unit at home can be helpful as you complete your home exercise program. Make sure your physical therapist reviews your unit with you and helps you understand how to use it safely.

image of a compex muscle stimulator

At our clinic, we use the Compex Muscle Stimulator that has settings for both pain relief and neuromuscular reeducation.

Compression Gear

One of the initial goals after surgery is to get the swelling out of your knee. Reducing swelling will help with your pain control, regaining your range of motion, and being able to activate your quad! These are the three biggest goals of the initial phase of your ACL rehab.

You can use a variety of things for compression. Either a compression garment on your lower leg or a simple ace wrap from a pharmacy will do you wonders. 



Early in your rehab process there will be a variety of relatively simple exercises that you can complete at home working on muscles around your hips and knee to start restoring or maintaining your strength.

Having bands at home will make it easier for you to complete these exercises and maintain your strength as best as possible. 


A Gym Membership

Throughout your ACL rehab, you are going to need access to a gym to rebuild your strength, power and conditioning. Early on, it can be great to have access to a bike for range of motion and non-impact conditioning. As you progress, having access to a knee extension machine, hamstring curl machine and leg press machine will help with early strength restoration. As you progress even more, having access to dumbbells and barbells can be really important in the late stages of ACL rehab as you get back to your sport.

Out of all the things on this list, this may be the most important and the one you will use the most!

Basic Post-Surgery Accessories

You will likely need crutches immediately after surgery.  If you have crutches from a previous injury (that still fit you), make sure you bring those on surgery day! If not, check with your doctor as they are often able to help you get crutches that fit appropriately! 

Sometimes a doctor will recommend a post surgical brace, it is particularly important if you have a range of motion restrictions following your procedure.  Those braces will be fit for you after surgery! It is important to listen to your doctor’s guidance and wear the brace if they recommend it!


Going into an ACL surgery can be extremely nerve racking with a lot of unknowns, but hopefully this list gives you a starting point to set yourself up for a smooth recovery when you think about what to buy before your ACL surgery! You can read more about what to expect before and after your ACL surgery. There are many things out of your control during this time, but we encourage you to focus on what you can control! Reduce your swelling and keep your body moving appropriately, and you and your knee will be in great shape!

More questions?

Do you have additional questions about ACL rehab? We have two free courses you can get access to online.

At Kinetic Sports Medicine and Performance, we specialize in ACL rehabilitation and would love to answer any questions you’re still having. We can work with you at any point in your ACL rehab. Don’t hesitate to reach out for a free consultation today! We help athletes return to their sport and we want you to return better, faster and stronger than before!