Know Everything About Patella Instability and Dislocation

Knee Pain

Kneecap Instability

We depend on our knees for our movements. Whether it is walking or running, our knees play an important role in helping us move easily. When your kneecap is unstable, not only  will it inhibit the smooth movement, but also can lead to several chronic problems.

Are you suffering from kneecap instability (otherwise called patellar instability)? You are not alone. The kneecap instability is very common today.

As our knees have many working structures and bear a lot of loads, they are susceptible to problems. Know about patella instability and dislocation here.

Kneecap Instability

Patellar Instability – An Overview

Usually, when things are in the gutter, they will work smoothly. This is certainly the case with the knees too. Unlike most other bones in the body, our kneecap is able to move freely because it’s not attached to any other bone in our body. It’s the largest sesamoid bone in our body and is held in place by the two tendons, namely, quadriceps tendon and patellar tendon.[1]

As long as the kneecap stays in this groove in your knee, you will be able to do all the activities, such as walking, running, sitting, standing, and moving easily. On the other hand, if it slips out of this groove, it often causes problems and pain.

So, why do you think your patella (kneecap) slips out of this groove?

Sometimes, the muscles and ligaments will not be able to hold your patella in the groove (patellofemoral groove, otherwise called trochlear groove). If you face a patellar subluxation or dislocation, the kneecap will be pulled towards the outside (that is, lateral side) or inside (that is, medial side) of the knee. When it occurs, the kneecap will not be able to slide centrally within the groove in the way it should. This would result in knee pain and discomfort.

Patellar Instability

What Causes Patellar Instability and Dislocation?

Normally, the kneecap will fit nicely in your patellofemoral groove. But, if your groove is found to be uneven or very shallow, your kneecap can slide off, thereby leading to a partial or complete dislocation.

The common causes of a kneecap dislocation are as follows:

  • Excessive Pressure: Excessive pressure to the kneecap during movements is a common cause of dislocation. When a person moves at a high speed in one direction and suddenly changes direction with the legs planted, the knee joint will sustain a high amount of pressure. In a situation where this pressure is too high, the kneecap will dislocate.
  • Direct trauma: If the knee joint comes into collision with an object or a person with great force, it will suffer a trauma, ultimately, causing your kneecap to dislocate.
  • Being a female: According to research studies, women are found to have a higher risk for patellar dislocation than males. Researchers presume that this risk may be because females tend to have broader hips, which causes the thigh bones to bend inward and affix knees at more of an angle.
  • Weak muscles: People who have weaker leg muscles or a lack of balance in the strength of their legs will put unwanted pressure on the knee joint. This increases the risk of patellar dislocation.
  • Misaligned/Raised Patella: If your patella is not aligned properly or sits too high on your femoral groove, you possess a high risk of encountering a dislocated kneecap.
  • Overweight: People who are overweight or obese will more likely suffer a kneecap dislocation. In these cases, you may suffer a dislocation even without any traumatic injury or excessive force. In what is called as a “low-velocity kneecap dislocation”, your knee will be overwhelmed by the excessive weight and dislocate.
  • Excess Height: If you are exceptionally tall, you may possess an increased risk of contracting a patellar dislocation.
  • Past Injury: Having suffered a traumatic injury or a patellar dislocation in the past will increase the risk of facing a kneecap dislocation.[2]

How Can You Say if You have a Partial or Complete Kneecap Dislocation?

You can tell if you have a partial or complete kneecap dislocation by noticing the following symptoms:

  • A feeling that your knee is buckling and cannot support your bodyweight anymore
  • Your kneecap slips off to the sides and is not properly aligned
  • A catching sensation in your knee joint while bending or straightening your leg
  • Pain in the front of the knee that worsens with activity
  • Knee pain while sitting
  • Stiffness or swelling in your knees
  • Creaking or cracking sounds while moving your knees

If you have these symptoms, you are advised to consult an orthopedic doctor for physical examination and diagnosis. This is essential because a kneecap dislocation can cause damage to the underside of your kneecap, as well as to the bones in the joint. Not only it will be painful, but it can even to arthritis.[3]

Patella Instability and Dislocation

What Can You do to Treat Patella Instability and Dislocation?

The first step in treating the patella instability and dislocation is to return your kneecap to its original position. This will be done through a process called reduction. In some cases, this reduction will happen spontaneously. To aid this process, high-quality patellar instability braces can be used. These knee braces will offer additional support to the patella and will help immobilize it while it heals. In addition, exercises will also help strengthen your thigh muscles so as to have your kneecap properly aligned.

Cycling will be recommended as part of the physical activities. Herein, the primary objective will be to make patients start their normal activities within 1 to 3 months. In other cases, your doctor will gently push your kneecap back into place. If you suffer a severe dislocation and if the nearby soft tissues are also damaged and require repair, you may need a surgery.


While some kinds of knee problems and/or injuries are unavoidable, it’s possible to decrease the risks to a certain extent. This can be achieved by maintaining a healthy weight, using the protective gears, and by avoiding the high trauma circumstances.










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