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Unstable Kneecap Treatment

Your kneecap (patella) connects the muscles in the front of your thigh to your shinbone. The kneecap fits in a V-shaped femoral groove located at the end of your femur where it slides in a structured up-and-down motion as you bend and straighten your knee. Patients experience kneecap instability when the kneecap begins to move outside of the femoral groove. This can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, or difficulty walking.

At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, our experienced, certified specialists can diagnose and treat your knee condition. Our team will work with you to discern a treatment option best suited to your needs to ensure a quick and healthy recovery process. Here are a few ways in which this condition can be treated:

  • Reduction (Bringing the kneecap back place)
  • Arthroscopic surgery
  • Reconstructive surgery
  • Exercises
  • Braces

If you’re suffering from kneecap instability, do not allow your condition to worsen. Schedule your first consultation with the team at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists today. If you’re in an emergency situation, visit the Immediate Care Clinic at our Schaumburg, IL location.

Unstable Kneecap FAQ

What Causes Unstable Kneecap?

The kneecap connects the muscles in the front of 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) 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.

What Are The Symptoms of Unstable Kneecap?

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

What Are The Treatment Options For Unstable Kneecap?

If the kneecap has been completely dislocated out of its groove, the first step is to return the kneecap to its proper place. This process is called reduction.

Sometimes, reduction 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 damage to the cartilage on either the undersurface of the kneecap or covering the thighbone. Occasionally, a loose piece of cartilage is created. Arthroscopic surgery can correct this condition.

If the kneecap is only partially dislocated, your doctor may recommend nonsurgical treatments, such as exercises and braces.

Exercises will help strengthen the muscles in your thigh 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 1 to 3 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.