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Home > Health & Wellness > Dislocation of the Kneecap    

Dislocation of the Kneecap    

The kneecap or Patella normally sits in front of the knee. Its under surface has a ridge which slots into a groove at the bottom of the femur when you bend and straighten your leg. When the kneecap dislocates it jumps out of this groove and the supporting ligaments and muscles can be overstretched or torn.

With kneecap dislocation all function of the knee is lost. The patient may have heard and felt a “pop”, the knee will give way, any attempt to stand will be impossible and the knee will quickly swell. If quickly diagnosed and pain allows, the knee can be gently and passively straightened which will hopefully bring about spontaneous reduction of the kneecap.

If the knee can be extended and the kneecap pops back into position , an ice pack should be applied (or cold towels if the weight is too much to bare) then the leg needs to be stabilised in an extended position until medical attention can be sought.

Straightening the knee may well prove too painful to attempt. In this case the knee should be supported in the most comfortable position and the patient moved to hospital where analgesia will be administered before the kneecap is put back in place. An X ray may be required to check the bony alignments. Surgery is only required if a fracture or ligament tear has been confirmed.

Recovery time is usually around 4 to 6 weeks though it may be longer to return to sports or other strenuous activities.

Physiotherapy treatment will include ice treatments to reduce the swelling and ultrasound may be used to speed up the recovery of any damaged soft tissues such as the collateral ligament and quadriceps tendon which may have been damaged.

Muscle strengthening exercises will be introduced when pain has subsided. These exercises are most important to stabilise the kneecap and support the knee. While most people are unlikely to dislocate their kneecap more than once, some people can suffer from recurrent dislocations due to ligament laxity or hypermobility.

Tracey Evans

The Physiotherapy Centre

+34 609 353 805