How To Sleep After Acl Surgery

4 min read

Will you be in a lot of pain after ACL surgery? Do you need to wear a cast or knee brace to support your knee?

The real pain from ACL surgery lasts for approximately 2 days, and then with every day that passes, the pain subsides and is replaced by stiffness. Most ACL repairs require the use of a brace. The brace will support the knee joint and the ACL repairs over the coming weeks.

How to sleep after ACL surgery with a brace

You can use prescribed pain medication and sleeping aids. For the first couple of days after ACL surgery, you will experience some real pain in the knee joint, and you will need to take medication to enable you to sleep.

After the first couple of days, the pain subsides dramatically, which will allow you to adopt a regime that will reduce swelling and some of the stiffness in the knee joint.

You can try the following steps to aid in your recovery:

  • Keep to a strict pain medication routine, and take the pain medication exactly as prescribed, including the time intervals. Take pain medication when you are about to get into bed
  • Before bedtime, place ice on your knee (not directly to the skin) for 20 minutes
  • Sleep with a pillow between your knees but not under your knees
  • If you have sleep aids for the first week or so, use them, sleep will help your ACL repair faster

Do I have to sleep with my knee brace on after ACL surgery?

If you’re wondering how to sleep with ACL tear? You can take your knee brace off when you sleep. You will not be required to wear a knee brace while sleeping. The support is needed from the knee brace as you regain some of your mobility.

You could be wearing your knee brace for 4 to 6 weeks which is the total recovery time for a repaired ACL tendon.

How long should I sleep with my leg elevated after ACL surgery?

Approximately a week. It depends on how your recovery is going. If you are up and about on crutches and doing well during the day after a week, you may find you have some swelling at night, and elevating your knee eases the symptoms.

If you experience your knee swelling and throbbing pain, you may need to slow down and elevate your leg to let the fluids drain. 

Elevating your leg can be a challenge, especially on pillows. You can buy orthopedic cushions that elevate your leg 12 inches above your heart. The cushions are comfortable and are less prone to slipping.

How high should your bed be after knee surgery?

More than the height, you will need a firm, comfortable mattress. There are recommendations that the bed should be at knee height. But, it is not a requirement to buy a new bed before surgery if the bed is higher.

In fact, a higher mattress will make it easier for you to get in and out of bed. For the next month, your leg that has not been operated on will bear most of your weight.

Sleeping position after knee surgery


It is generally not recommended to sleep on your stomach after ACL surgery. This is because sleeping on your stomach can put strain on your knees and hips, which can be painful and potentially damaging to the healing tissues in your knee.

It is usually recommended to sleep on your back or on your side after ACL surgery, with a pillow placed between your legs to help keep your hip and knee joints aligned. It is also important to follow any specific instructions provided by your doctor or physical therapist regarding sleep positions and any other post-surgery care recommendations.


Can you sleep on your side after knee surgery? Wait for at least a week before you try to sleep on your side. Keep in mind that your leg will be straight for 6 weeks, so sleeping on your side will be a challenge for two reasons. First, you need to keep your leg straight, and most side sleepers bend their knees.

The second reason is you can place a lot of pressure on your knee from side sleeping, making the pain levels unbearable. However, if this is your thing, place a pillow between your knees and see how it goes.

Of course, sleep on the opposite side to the knee that has had the surgical procedure.


Sleeping on your back is usually a safe and comfortable position after ACL surgery, as long as you use a pillow to support your knee and keep it in a comfortable position.

You may also find it helpful to use a body pillow to support your hips and knees and help keep your body in proper alignment while you sleep.

It’s important to follow any specific instructions provided by your doctor or physical therapist regarding sleep positions and any other post-surgery care recommendations.

It is also a good idea to listen to your body and choose a position that feels comfortable and allows you to sleep soundly.

How do you shower after ACL surgery?

Carefully! Your leg will be bandaged, and you will need to keep it dry to protect the incision. You can buy waterproof leg protectors from Amazon relatively cheaply. They have a tight neoprene waterproof band that will seal most thighs and keep the dressing dry.

If you find it difficult to stand in the shower on one leg, you can use a plastic shower stool to make showering easy. It’s not recommended to sit in the bath.

If your doctor asks you to wait a little longer before showering, your option is a sponge bath.

Why does my thigh hurt after ACL surgery?

If the surgeon has used a camera before surgery, the fluid in your leg creeps into your thigh, which can be painful. Pain in the thigh is a normal experience, particularly if you are active.

When muscles start to waste, they can become painful. You can combat this by doing some static quadricep exercises to retain some muscle mass.

Is it OK to bend the knee after ACL surgery?

Yes, you will need to start bending the knee as soon as possible. In the past, the physiotherapist would have had your knee on a continuous movement machine (CPM), but they are not so common these days as surgeons move away from old techniques.

You must follow your doctor’s instructions as not all ACL repairs are the same. You must be careful of hyperextending the knee, which could cause some damage to the ACL.

Is walking good after ACL surgery?

You can walk two days after surgery. Sounds great? You will only be allowed to walk for a few minutes every day just to keep circulation moving, that will help to disperse the swelling around the knee joint.

These few minutes each day will also help with the atrophy of your quadriceps.

Do you have screws in your knee after ACL surgery?

It’s possible. The surgeon may need to screw into the femur and the tibia during ACL reconstruction to graft bone. If this is your case, steel screws will be permanently fixed.

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