Torn ACL Recovery – Guide to Supplements

After receiving the news that I tore my ACL and a full reconstruction was ahead, I started diving into supplements and recovery assistance. What supplements help in recovering from ACL surgery?

Being an athlete all my life—basketball, crossfit, cycling—I’ve always relied on supplementation of some kind, but never for surgery and an intense rehab protocol. Food is always a big part of recovery, too, so keeping smart and sensible there wouldn’t change throughout my recovery. I won’t discuss food here, but eating terribly obviously won’t help your body recover!

Like most ACL reconstruction (ACLR) procedures, and really most major surgeries, I was told to stop taking any supplements two weeks before my surgery date. That was a little discouraging to be honest, but I understand the pros outweigh the potential cons in terms of other drugs, blood thinning, and of course general anesthesia.

Since I’m settling into more of a routine, I want to cover what supplements I’m taking to aid in my ACL surgery recovery. For reference, in terms of timing, I started back up with these 5-7 days after surgery when I was ramping up into PT.

A note before we go any further: consult with your doctor if you are unsure what you can or cannot be taking. I’m not a doctor and certainly not yours! Personally, I waited until I was totally off any hard painkillers and was functioning relatively normally again before commencing this routine.

Supplements for ACL Surgery

Cissus Quandrangularis Extract
This came up in a lot of searches around inflammation, bone and tissue healing, and general joint health. The Cissus plant’s healing properties have been lesser known in the Western world, but time and time again it ranked at the top for joint health and associated healing properties. I take 2000mg (two capsules) daily.

Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM
This is perhaps the most “controversial” supplement on the list (if you can call it that) simply because there has not been any scientifically proven joint benefits when tested. If you do some digging you’ll find split results: some people love it and others think it’s a placebo. Either way, if there’s a chance this helps with healing, elasticity, and recovery in my knee, I’m going to give it a shot over the first few months. I take a full dose (four capsules) daily.

Vitamin C
This is the old standby that helps our bodies in multiple ways. From general immune system health to reducing inflammation, the C is great. It’s also known for bone and tissue healing, which comes into play at the graft tunnel site and associated tissue damage from surgery. I’m taking 1000mg (two capsules) daily, although I’m aware I could take more.

Fish Oil / Omega-3 Fatty Acids
I take fish oil on the daily regularly, and in this case I really like the Nature’s Bounty brand. It’s not too fishy and digests easily for me. Especially while in recovery mode, I want to keep taking something that promotes cardiovascular health even when I’m not able to be as active. I take 1400mg (one capsule) daily.

Collagen Peptides
This is a relatively new supplement for me, but I’ve read that the repair upside of collagen is terrific. Ligaments contain a substantial amount of collagen, and it’s a protein that accounts for much of the proteins in the body. It’s been known to aid in joint health and healing, delivering much needed collagen proteins to the injury site. I put one scoop in coffee, and also most days I’ll add an additional half scoop into my BCAA drink. Bonus: one scoop adds 9g of protein.

BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
An old standby for recovery after workouts, BCAAs are something I’ve taken for a long time. They help aid in muscle recovery and soreness, and are known to trigger protein synthesis. I’ll mix one scoop with water into a Blender Bottle, often times with a half scoop of the collagen peptides noted above, once a day. The Scivation Xtend company offers a lot of exotic flavors, but I personally keep it simple with grape.

Whey Isolate Protein Powder
Another product my wife and I have been consuming for some time is whey isolate protein. It mixes well with other ingredients for shakes or a morning bullet proof coffee. I don’t need to go into too much detail about protein in general, but this simply supplies the body with extra protein to aid in muscle recovery, growth, and sustainability during recovery—and ongoing physical therapy activities. One scoop provides 23g of protein.

Black Elderberry
I started taking this supplement last winter when the cold season kicked in, and I noticed a substantial difference in my immune system keeping nagging cold bugs away. I typically question any anti-cold supplements, but alas, I find this works for me. After surgery is no different, so I continue to take 575mg (one capsule) daily.

This supplement is known to promote brain health, boost energy, and improve nervous system function among many other things. This particular brand also includes an extra boost of Vitamin C. I am taking one capsule daily.

Turmeric Curcumin C3 Complex (late addition)
When swelling persists in the joint after surgery (weeks/months later) as it has for me, Turmeric was recommended to me by my PT to have on hand for the daily routine. Hopefully I’ll only need to go through a bottle or two, but I like this as a natural anti-inflammatory.

More Post-ACL Supplement Considerations

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. For example, I’ve seen Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Zinc brought up quite a bit around ACL surgery recovery. One list isn’t the ultimate list, of course, so figure out what works for you and consult with your doctor if you have questions. Fellow ACL article writer Nina Elise also covers a plethora of natural oils on her blog from her recovery process, for what it’s worth.

CBD (Cannabidiol)

As I’m Colorado-based, CBD came up as a remedy for muscle aches and pains that occur during recovery (and throughout the rehab process). With the right CBD product, you’re not getting THC—or much at all—so this isn’t about getting high by any means. But if that helps you, too, go for it!

CBD has been known to help with inflammation, pain relief, and a whole host of other benefits. Just look it up. I’ve ended up using various CBD muscle freeze products 1-2 times a day, usually morning/midday and before bed. It has a nice soothing effect with a touch of icy hot tingle.

ACL Supplement Costs

It’s no surprise that a cabinet full of supplements isn’t cheap. But given the context of recovery from surgery, what’s another couple hundred bucks to give you the best chance at recovery? What about recovering even stronger?

I figure if countless thousands go into the surgery, and countless hundreds go towards physical therapy, this is a drop in the bucket. And a very important drop, right?

What works for you? What have you found gives you a noticeable difference? What doesn’t work for you? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences here. And best of luck in your recovery!

– Torn ACL Recovery Podcast
ACL Rehab Cycling Program

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This article has 18 comments

  1. Great information, thanks so much!

  2. Anita Bindra
    Nov 7, 2019 Reply

    Thank you for this – I’ll be working my way through your podcasts with interest. Just reached the two week stage and found your website whilst researching supplements. I’m going to try the collagen supplement in coffee tomorrow as in water it just makes me gag. I’m sure it will ruin a perfectly good coffee but this is my second ACL repair – 1st one disintegrated over 30 years but it was made of gore-tex. I’m looking forward to the road to recovery and getting back to sport so thank you for your website which will help motivate me on my lazy days.

    • Chris Arnold
      Nov 7, 2019 Reply

      Anita – thanks! What a wild story about the gore-tex graft! Best of luck, especially in the first few months. Those lazy days will come but do your best to keep motivated and find that renewed drive where you can. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

  3. Your last episode touched me. I had ACL reconstruction Feb 2017. I was a very active person. Running marathons and etc. unfortunately, I completely tore my ACL and Lateral meniscus. I was dealing with a horrible feeling from the left side of my knee, a cross my shin bone to the right side of ankle (Left Leg). I found out almost a year later that my surgeon cut a nerve and also gave me a failed ACL. I have decided to do any more surgery due to no confidence in surgeons. My knee and leg just doesn’t even feel like a part of me. I have struggled with depression. There are days that I tell myself I am just use to it. Anyways- just wondering if you start to feel a difference or persons that I could look into that could give me guidance ?

    • Chris Arnold
      Nov 9, 2019 Reply

      Hi Rhonda, so sorry to hear that! I think depression is a very real part of ACL rehab (or any major knee rehab) that isn’t spoken about much. I, too, don’t have all the feeling back in my leg after the surgery and I’m not sure I ever will. There’s certainly a frustrated and detached feeling that can come from that. The most important bit about the emotional side for me was to put myself around encouraging people. Being around loving family and friends of course, but also purposefully working with a PT and massage therapist who understood my unique case. While they weren’t living it, they could empathize better than most and it really helped lift my spirits in the tough weeks.

    • Lissette Chao
      Nov 10, 2019 Reply

      Im so sorry things are so rough for you. Dr. Christina Allen is a renowned ACL surgeon at UCSF in San Francisco that focuses on female athletes. She did my ACL surgery and is a leading expert on ACL repair. Patients travel from all over to see her. Id recommend contacting her:

      Sincerely hoping things get better for you. *hug*

  4. Gillian Thomas
    Jan 29, 2020 Reply

    Hi all.
    I am an active, sport loving person whom completely tore my ACL in June. Surgery to be done this March. I just found this website and will definitely listen to the recovery podcast.

    Take care all

  5. Meredith
    Apr 22, 2020 Reply

    Hi Chris,

    I am entering my 8th week of recovery, and I just ordered turmeric supplements. Did you feel they had an immediate effect or was it more of a cumulative effect over time?


    • Chris Arnold
      Apr 23, 2020 Reply

      Hey Meredith! Turmeric has been more of a slow build effect over time for me. I still take it two years later and I think it’s helped with overall inflammation and recovery. I take a lot less ibuprofen since getting on it, if that helps paint a better picture.

  6. Meredith
    Apr 23, 2020 Reply

    Yes thank you!

  7. This has been some helpful information. I had Meniscus repair and ACL tear year and a half ago and am still having issues. I spoke to someone who asked me about vitamins and minerals and I was like Huh!!! but reading on here has gave me some hope even after months of therapy, collapsing knee, pain for days. I have hope that it will dissolve in time and I can run and jump again.

    • Chris Arnold
      Mar 30, 2021 Reply

      Trisha! Glad you found the podcast, and I hope it’s helpful in you getting back to the activities you enjoy.

  8. Mikayla
    May 5, 2021 Reply

    Just had ACL BTB reconstruction on April 3. Thank you for the Article very helpful. Was wondering your experience with Cissus. I think it has made a big difference in healing thus far and feel it will help with strengthening during the ligamentization period

    • Chris Arnold
      May 6, 2021 Reply

      Best of luck in your recovery! Cissus was part of my regimen for a good year or more, absolutely. Like I mention here, these supplements were in place for a few different reasons, and cissus was no less important!

  9. Tara Robertson
    Apr 11, 2022 Reply

    Couple of years later and people are still listening to your podcast! What a great achievement!

    I have been very demotivated listening to friends tell me that they didn’t go through any of this when they had ACL surgery. I have been googling for days and eventually came across your podcasts!

    So many things have been mentioned by you that makes me feel so much better and the process that I am going through or the things I am experiencing. Especially the shin bruise and the random pings and pangs and the numbness!

    Thank you so much for lifting my spirits again!

    Tara (5 weeks into recovery)

    • Chris Arnold
      Apr 11, 2022 Reply

      Hey Tara, so glad you found the podcast! Something told me I wasn’t (and wouldn’t be) the only one. It’s a journey, but it makes it much more manageable knowing that these things DO happen, and you can get through it. Thank you for your kind words and I wish you all the best during your recovery! You got this!

  10. Hi Chris, came across your podcast on the Apple Podcast app! Enjoyed listening to it, like most of the other readers. I’m an active athletic amateur footballer and looking to get back to my normal lifestyle. I have ruptured my ACL and LCL and due in surgery this Monday!

    I can’t recall but what tendon did they use for your ACL graft, I’m using my hamstring and I just wondered how you felt the hamstring/patella was after using the tendons? Has it recovered fully? From reading on the hamstring, a lot of people mentioning cramping sensations. Would like to hear your experience this far down the line. Thanks again

    • Chris Arnold
      May 26, 2022 Reply

      Hey Scott, thanks for listening! I used the hamstring graft and yes it’s recovered. Have had no issues with the patellar tendon / front of the knee. To be clear, with the hamstring, “fully recovered” still means you won’t have part of a hamstring ever again! Doesn’t grow back. And yes, if you stop exercising it, the hamstring will become much weaker than the non-surgical side. It does have a tendency to cramp easier in a hamstring curl, or be more sore after infrequent oly lifting that involves the hamstrings. That is greatly reduced (if not mitigated) by constant hamstring work, though. All that said, it’s something to keep in mind after your primary rehab phase is behind you.

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