Understanding Patellar Subluxation

Patellar subluxation is a knee injury characterised by the partial dislocation of the kneecap at the thigh bone. The injury typically occurs during physical exertion, and it's a common knee injury experienced by athletes. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for patellar subluxation:


Depending on the angle of the dislocation, it may be noticeable, but this is not always the case. However, even without a noticeable change in the position of the kneecap, there are clear symptoms linked to this type of injury. Partial dislocation causes the surrounding muscles and ligaments to come under strain, and this causes inflammation and localised pain. Other common symptoms of this condition include intermittent locking of the knee, hearing a popping noise when bending the knee and pain after a period of sitting.

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

Your doctor will diagnose patellar subluxation by taking details of your symptoms and conducting a thorough knee examination, which will include manoeuvring your knee into various positions to determine the extent of any stiffness of mobility loss you're experiencing. Additionally, diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or MRI scan, will be utilised to visualise the surrounding soft tissue and determine the extent of the injury.

Your doctor will formulate a treatment plan based on the severity of your symptoms. Initially, you will need to rest and keep your knee elevated to help the swelling go down. You may also be prescribed anti-inflammatories and painkillers. Conservative treatment options include physiotherapy to strengthen the surrounding muscles and support your kneecap or wearing custom-made orthotic insoles to reduce the pressure on your knee by temporarily altering your gait. Another option is to wear a knee brace to support the knee and encourage healing by limiting movement and allowing the surrounding muscles to recover. In some cases, surgery may be required to realign the kneecap. This procedure is known as medial patellofemoral ligament reconstruction and involves using a piece of tendon that's been surgically removed from your hamstring to stabilise and strengthen the ligament that attaches the knee to the thigh bone. This procedure is usually carried out as a day case, but you will need to avoid putting pressure on the affected knee for some time after surgery.

If you have symptoms associated with patellar subluxation, or if you have any concerns about the health of your knees, schedule an appointment with a knee rehabilitation clinic, as this injury can worsen without prompt treatment.