When and How Can I Shower After ACL Surgery?

You can shower after ACL surgery straight away and get wet as long as you are careful to keep the dressing and wound dry!

Generally speaking most surgeons agree that you can shower straight away or within a few days after ACL surgery but you must take care to keep the dressing and incision dry.

Prior to stepping under the running shower water, try wrapping a plastic cover or water proof plastic sheet (or bag) over your knee to help provide an extra layer of protection to your incision.

More precisely this may include placing a polyethylene food wrap or plastic bag over the top of your knee and seal the top of the plastic covering with a tape or an elastic.

When can I shower after ACL surgery

Often your surgeon will apply a waterproof dressing. Avoid saturation of the knee which includes not taking any baths or swims in a pool until your wound has completely sealed over and is clean.

The precautions above are more important in the first 10 to 14 days after ACL surgery – which is the period prior to having your stitches removed (normally at your first follow up appointment).

In the early stages of your ACL recovery, pain and swelling in your knee is likely to impact your knee functionality and present a variety of challenges with your day to day living including:

  • walking after ACL surgery in your own home and
  • standing and balancing upright in your shower after ACL surgery which may at first a bit of struggle

These challenges are likely to dissipate sooner than you may expect, especially if you commit to the daily requirments of your post ACL surgery exercises and recovery protocols.

What are your risks of taking a shower after ACL surgery?

During your recuperation after ACL surgery you will still need to shower but you must keep your knee dry

You should look to avoid saturating the dressing including avoiding taking baths and swimming pools until the wound has completely healed over

In addition if you are taking any narcotics or medication to alleviate pain you may need to be careful with your balance if any side effects are experienced

Furthermore it is important to be mindful that most people will experience a significant reduction in knee functionality and balance after ACL surgery

Therefore take care to ensure that you do not slip or incur any sudden twists in the shower especially during your early recovery phases when the knee is weak and debilitated

5 helpful tips to help you with showering after ACL surgery

After ACL surgery due to the initial onset of pain and swelling in the knee, it is not uncommon to find it challenging to perform simple activities such as walking in your home or standing up straight in a shower

Below we discuss 5 useful tips to assist you with showering after ACL surgery

1. Keep your incision dry at all times 

The dressing on your knee is often removed in your post-operative appointment approximately 10 to 14 days after surgery.  Up until that point of time you need to keep the incision dry at all times and avoid saturating your knee

In this early stage of your ACL recovery timeline to take a shower you may consider applying a plastic covering / sheet or bag over your knee bandage to ensure that you keep your incision dry at all times.  Whilst the dressing on the knee may water resistant, the plastic covering will provide for an extra level of protection

Be careful to ensure that the plastic sheet / bag is completely sealed (use tape or even an elastic band) above knee. The key is to prevent running water from dripping through underneath the bag and onto the dressing

After your shower be careful when removing the plastic to firstly clear any excess water that might be caught near the top of the bag

2. Keep clear of baths and pools 

As noted above, after ACL surgery it is important to keep the incision dry at all times

Therefore do not take a bath or swim in a pool as this will cause saturation around the knee.  Once the stitches are removed and the wound has healed then you are right to go.

Wait for at least 24 hours after removing the stitches before swimming, to ensure there are no complications and the incision has healed in a proper manner

3. Avoid warm water on the knee after ACL surgery which can cause an increase in swelling 

Try not to let warm shower water flow over the top of the plastic covering on your knee (in particularly the part of your knee where the dressing is located) as this will cause the tissues surrounding the knee to swell and dilation of the surrounding blood vessels (swelling) is likely to occur

Therefore try to move your bad knee to the side and out of the way of the flowing water whilst in the shower

4. Use a chair or handrail.  Sponge clean as an alternative option 

Within the first few days after ACL surgery you may be experiencing significant pain and swelling which limits your confidence to stand on a shower floor until knee functionally improves.

If you not confident standing in your shower after ACL surgery then you can also sit on a chair or use a handrail.  Sponge cleaning is another alternative option until you feel more comfortable and gain confidence with balancing in the shower.

5. Careful not to slip on the shower floor

Watch out for a slipper shower floor which can often have remnants of soap and cleaning products that cause the surface to be slippery

You need to avoid any sudden knee movements in the early phases after ACL surgery and therefore you should take specific precautions to limit the risks of any falls or slips

This is particularly important in the first 1 to 2 weeks after ACL surgery when only limited pressure may be applied to the bad knee.

If you are concerned with your ability to maintain balance whilst standing in the shower you may also consider using a water resistant stool or shower chair to sit on.

Before surgery, can I shower with a torn ACL

A simple activity such as taking a shower or walking with a torn ACL is normally very achievable before ACL surgery. It is advised to avoid any sudden twisting motions and to consult a doctor immediately after the injury.

When is full immersion in water possible

Within 3 weeks post ACL surgery full immersion in water is possible as long as the incision from surgery heals in a proper manner and there are no complications. This also means that you can start your ACL swimming exercises which are highly effective for your surgery recovery!

Are you feeling challenged by your ACL recovery?

As a helpful guide we have put together this simple yet remarkably effective ACL Recovery Guide with 5 key phases that could help you plan and keep your ACL recovery on track and achieve your ACL rehabilitation goals.

About Brett Mitchell

Our missions is to provide ACL Knee Injury Recovery and Rehabilitation information to improve the health and wellbeing of people who have injured their Anterior Cruciate Ligament and have undergone surgery or are considering their options to increasing the functionality of their injured ACL knee. The information on our site aims to help people understand and manage their ACL knee injury. It does not replace care provided by medical practitioners and other qualified health professionals.

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Disclaimer – The information provided on this Site is accurate to the best of our knowledge, but no warranty as to the accuracy is given and each individual should not act on the basis of its contents whilst interpreting the materials without seeking assistance from a medical or healthcare professional to apply them to your individual circumstances. The information on this site is for information purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health, consult your general practitioner.