There are many causes of knee pain, from strains and sprains to tears to broken bones. Another common cause of knee pain is having an unstable kneecap. This can lead to kneecap dislocation, which occurs when the kneecap does not properly align with the groove known as the trochlea. This groove is what the kneecap slides up and down on as the leg bends.
Unstable kneecap, also known as patellar subluxation, is when the kneecap is pulled toward the outside of the knee. In many cases, the dislocation is subtle, and causes little to no irritation to the patient. Other times, kneecap dislocation is an extremely painful condition. Kneecap dislocation is most often seen in adolescents and sometimes in younger children.
Causes of Unstable Kneecap
There are all kinds of things that can cause the kneecap to become unstable. Usually, it is a combination of things that lead to this condition. Some of the things that can cause kneecap dislocation include a shallow groove, a wide pelvis, an irregular way of walking and even abnormalities in the feet, which is now known to cause a number of other problems, including back pain. Younger patients who suffer from chondromalacia patella, which is an irritation of the cartilage beneath the kneecap, are prone to having kneecap instability. Some other causes of kneecap instability include patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee), plica syndrome and osteoarthritis.
Treating Unstable Kneecap
Before getting treatment for an unstable kneecap, it is important to correctly diagnose the condition and make sure that there is not already kneecap dislocation. In order to find out exactly what is going on, a physician will perform a number of diagnostic tests, including x-rays, to see where the kneecap is sitting. If the kneecap is dislocated, it will need to be put back into its proper alignment.
There are a number of ways to treat kneecap instability and prevent kneecap dislocation. Physiotherapy is often recommended, where patients will strengthen the quadriceps muscle, which will help to realign the knee and pull on the kneecap. Often, patients are required to use a brace as a short-term treatment, and because this condition is often caused by an improper gait, quality footwear is also recommended.
Is Surgery Necessary?
For some patients who do not respond to non-surgical therapies, surgery may be required to fix an instability or dislocation in the kneecap. The physician will perform an arthroscopic surgery, which involves the use of a tiny camera to see exactly where the problems lie, then the proper surgical procedure can be performed to correct the problem. The most common procedure is a lateral release, where the lateral ligaments are cut so the kneecap can go back to its proper position. Because kneecap dislocation can become a recurring problem, many patients opt to have the surgery following the first dislocation, to relieve knee pain and prevent future ones.
Kneecap dislocation is painful, but can easily be treated, and with the proper treatment, patients can live virtually pain-free for the rest of their lives. If you think you have a dislocated knee or kneecap instability, see your physician and find out what you can do to treat it now, before it gets worse.