Unstable Kneecap

These articles are for general information only and are not medical advice. Full Disclaimer. All articles compliments of the AAOS.


When things are “in the groove,” they’re going smoothly. That certainly is the case with your knee. As long as your kneecap (patella) stays “in the groove,” you can walk, run, sit, stand and move easily. When the kneecap slips out of the groove, problems and pain often result.

The kneecap connects all the muscles in the thigh to the shinbone (tibia). As you bend or straighten your leg, the kneecap is pulled up or down. The thighbone (femur) has a V-shaped notch (femoral groove or sulcus) at one end to accommodate the moving kneecap. In a normal knee, the kneecap fits nicely in the groove. But if the groove is uneven or too shallow, the kneecap could slide off, resulting in a partial or complete dislocation. A sharp blow to the kneecap, as in a fall, could also pop the kneecap out of place.

Symptoms

  • Knee buckles and can no longer support your weight
  • Kneecap slips off to the side
  • Pain in the front of the knee increases with activity
  • Stiffness
  • Creaking or cracking sounds during movement
  • Swelling

Diagnosis

During the examination, your doctor may ask you to walk around or to straighten and bend your knee. He or she may carefully feel the area around the kneecap and take measurements to determine if the bones are out of alignment or if the thigh muscles are weak. X-rays may be recommended to see how the kneecap fits in its groove. Your doctor will also want to eliminate other possible reasons for the pain, such as a tear in the cartilage or ligaments of the knee.

Treatment

If the kneecap has popped totally out of its groove (dislocated), the first step is to return it to its proper place. This process is called reduction. Sometimes this happens spontaneously; other times, your doctor will have to apply gentle force to push the kneecap back in place. A dislocation often damages the underside of the kneecap and the end of the thighbone, which can lead to additional pain and arthritis. Arthroscopic surgery can correct this condition.

If the kneecap is only partially off track (subluxated), your doctor may recommend nonoperative treatments, such as exercises and braces. Exercises will help strengthen the muscles in your thighs so that the kneecap stays aligned.

Cycling is often recommended as part of the physical therapy. A stabilizing brace may also be prescribed. The goal is for you to return to your normal activities within one to three months.

A chronic condition, in which the knee continues to be unstable, can often be corrected by surgery. For example, surgery can be used to realign and tighten tendons to keep the kneecap on track, or to release tissues that pull the kneecap off track.

Unstable Kneecap


Maintained and hosted by Medical Informatics Solutions LLC

OUR SUBSIDIARIES & AFFILIATES

Orthopedics & Sports Medicine

Our highly experienced and regarded orthopedic surgeons specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders that affect bones, joints, muscles, cartilage, ligaments and nerves of the extremities and spine. They are proud to be affiliated with both St. Mary Mercy Hospital and St. John Macomb Hospital..

Back, Neck & Spine

You’ll have the advantage of the latest surgical and non-surgical procedures in back and neck pain. A team approach to your spinal problems may include physical therapy, medication, exercise, weight loss and therapeutic spinal injections. Additionally, we offer the area’s best orthopedic spine surgeons for repair or reconstruction of structural disorders.

Pain Management

The pain management / physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians at Mendelson Kornblum have a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge regarding pain-relieving techniques and treatments. Areas of specialty include back pain, neck pain, herniated discs, pinched nerves, post-surgical pain, cancer-related pain, musculoskeletal injuries, and rehabilitation for back and neck injuries. If you have acute or chronic pain that affects your mobility and ability to function, Mendelson Kornblum Orthopedics can help restore your quality of life.

Physical Therapy

Our rehabilitation approach complements your surgeon’s intervention with continual sharing of diagnostic information that can help promote a speedy recovery. In addition, due to our exclusive dedication to orthopedic conditions, we have developed many techniques that can significantly reduce the amount of pain during your rehabilitation.