I had ACL surgery a couple years ago and things have been great. I've been running more and have some (very minor) discomfort in that knee. I really have no idea if it could be the ACL or not. Is there a stretch I can do that will specifically stress the ACL so I can see if that's the source of the pain?

  • I have ruptured my cross ligaments on right knee 3 years ago and had a surgery 2 years ago. What I would suggest you is to see a professional because it is quite easy for them to diagnose with a small check and of course an MRI to make it sure. However, if you want to know without the need to consult a medical doctor, just check your own confidence about on your knee because it is quite tricky that after few weeks you just feel ok about it even though it is not OK at all. Another way to know is, If you stand on your feet for a while like waiting in line or doing a walk. Although you see a doct
    – glassfish
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 5:41

3 Answers 3


No you don't want to stress an ACL, esp. if you have had surgery. If it is partially torn, stressing it will only make it worse. It is best to return to your surgeon and/or physical therapist for an evaluation and possibly a new rehab program.

Even if the discomfort is only minor, the pain is telling you that something is wrong and the sooner you address it, the better off you will be. Your therapist can take a look at your shoes, your running form, and test your hip and leg muscles for any imbalances (tightness or weakness). They also might give you specific massage techniques to release any restrictions.

You may want to take a look at some of the running questions and answers to help you identify possible causes of knee pain with running. How to run without damaging your feet, knees or hips. will give you a lot of good information.


Robin is correct on the stretching of ligaments. Ligaments are like the springs in click pens, once they get pulled out, they don't go back as tight as before. This is the reason that once you dislocate a shoulder, it's easier to dislocate again.

The other thing is that there aren't really any stretches that you can apply yourself that will tell you that you have a ligament injury. There are three different common diagnostic tests, but they require the leg to be in specific positions, and a second party testing the knee. (Example: Anterior drawer test, requires the hamstrings to be completely relaxed. Since the hamstrings produce actions in two joints, both joints {knee and hip} have to be bent. Once the hamstrings are completely relaxed, the tester draws the knee forward. An excessive amount of forward motion, or lack of "stop" point indicates an injury. Impossible to do this test on yourself.)

Edited to add: These are not tests that should be done by you and a buddy. These should be done only by a trained professional, as it requires experience, training and if improperly done, could lead to or worsen injury.

Finally, even if you could stretch the area, there is no way for you to specifically pinpoint the pain and say "Yes, that's the ACL". My fear is that you would stretch, get no pain and decide it's ok and then have further injury occur.

My best recommendation would be to go in and have a professional take a look, rather than trying to diagnose it yourself. It's possible that you had a very minor injury at the time of the original ACL injury that has just gotten progressively worse over time and is now starting to cause discomfort/pain.

Edited to fit better with Nathan's request:

Ligaments connect bone to bone. They aren't designed to stretch. The tests for the ACL are basically of the kind where you bend the leg in various ways to completely relax the surrounding muscles (To avoid false negatives), then moving the knee. If the ACL is intact, the knee will have a fairly defined "stop" point, and a limited range of travel. If the ACL (or any of the knee ligaments for that matter) is damaged, the range of travel will be greater and the stop point will feel rather vague.

  • 1
    Some diagrams on the "anterior drawer test" as well as some more info (names? brief description?) of the other possible tests for an injured ACL would make this answer exceptional. I do suggest moving the warnings about having a professional take a look at it closer to the top, and add any warnings specific to the tests (like if you yank the leg up too hard on the anterior drawer test, I believe that can actually INJURE the ACL if it isn't already messed up) to the answer. Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 21:33
  • Nathan - I provided the description of the drawer test to show WHY it is nothing that anyone untrained should even be attempting. The diagnostic tests for an ACL injury are ones that should only be attempted by a trained person, which is why I didn't elaborate on the angles, etc. I know about them because of a kinesiology degree and research, but I would never attempt them personally.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 21:46
  • Ah, I took that example as "you could have a friend do this"... Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 14:50
  • 1
    Edited it to add a caveat, it is a bit ambiguous in the OP.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 14:53

Something you need to consider is that injuries and surgeries can affect much more in your body than just where you had the injury. Also, pain can refer so that can confuse things as well.

If you're only feeling pain in one side while running, I would think that the issue is an asymmetrical gait. Determining how your painful side is moving compared to your not painful side would be an important first step. That would help narrow down the cause of the pain.

That said, to the second half of your question about pressing somewhere to see if that causes the pain, trigger point therapy is about exactly that. I've read The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies (and recommended it to family members) and have had good results with it. If you can find it in a bookstore or library you could even flip through to the leg section, find trigger points that refer pain to where you're feeling it and see if you can palpate them.

As far as stretching goes, I haven't read it, but Trigger Point Self Care Manual by Donna Finando is apparently similar and also includes stretching. A note on stretching, as long as you stop the moment you feel some discomfort and don't push further you probably won't make things worse, but given some research has started showing that stretching can cause injury, I'm quite reluctant to recommend or suggest it at all unless you're very certain you know exactly what you're doing. Also, it's my understanding that when ligaments stretch, they don't go back to their old position and end up looser as a result, so I think targetting the ACL specifically would be a bad idea, but targetting various leg muscles might not be. Also keep in mind that if you find a muscle is tight when you stretch it, strengthening it with resistance training is a better course of action than trying to stretch it to loosen it up.

  • Considering that the knee has undergone surgery, you would still consider pain in that knee and not the other one to be due to an asymmetrical gait? Also, can you identify the "trigger point" and point it out in a picture or something? I definitely agree with not stretching ligaments, as well as limiting stretching entirely, and was glad to see that in this answer. Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 21:30
  • If you have an injury on one side, the other has to compensate and can develop problems as a result. There's multiple trigger points, even if based on copyright rules the page count isn't high enough to be violating the rules, I'd still need to get a scanner.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 21:43
  • We don't want scans of books and stuff, that definitely violates copyrights. I was just hoping for a stock picture of a leg/knee with an arrow drawn on it or something and a description of how to manipulate it. Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 14:49
  • I'll think about how I might be able to do something without oversimplifying.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 21:37

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