Patellar Subluxation - Knee Subluxation

What Is Patellar Subluxation?

Knee subluxation refers to when the knee cap partially dislocates from its normal position in the groove of one’s thigh bone for a temporary amount of time. If this occurs repeatedly, this is known as patellar subluxation syndrome.

This patellar tracking disorder is much more common than patellar dislocation, but the kneecap instability can be just as disabling.

Patella subluxation might be caused by a number of different things. Most often, it is caused by abnormal leg structure, such as being knock-kneed, having underdeveloped inner thigh muscles and/or overdeveloped outer thigh muscles, a larger knee cap than most, or patella alta (a high-riding kneecap). The abnormal patella tracking usually occurs during forced straightening of the knee. 

Lateral patellar subluxation (drifting toward the outer part of the knee) is much more common than medial subluxation (drifting toward one’s other leg).

Patellar Tracking Disorder Symptoms

Besides the sliding of the kneecap to the side, symptoms of patellar subluxation might include the following:

  • Anterior knee pain that intensifies with movement
  • Buckling of the knee
  • Sensation of the knee catching during movement
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling, especially behind the kneecap
  • Crepitus (grating sound/sensation)

There are a number of steps one can take to treat kneecap subluxation and address poor knee tracking.

Patellar Tracking Disorder Treatment

Conservative patellar tracking disorder treatment involves applying ice and elevating the knee to address painful inflammation and taking anti-inflammatory pain medications. Wearing a patellar subluxation brace is important for reducing inflammation and helping the patella to track as it should.

One might consider an open patella knee sleeve for patellar tracking disorder such as the Osgood Schlatters disease knee brace, with its circumferential strap, or the J brace patellar stabilizer, with a patellar buttress that helps the kneecap move as it should.

We also offer plus-size knee braces for medial or lateral subluxation of the patella, such as this knee brace for large legs up to 31 inches in circumference or the bariatric patella support knee sleeve for big legs. The former knee brace for patellar tracking disorder has a J-shaped buttress that promotes proper kneecap movement. The latter is a simple, tubular brace that warms and compresses the area around one’s knee.

Some of our braces for subluxation of the patella even have components that enhance proprioception that is great for patellar tracking disorder treatment. For instance, the GenuTrain A3 knee brace for arthritis relief does so by stimulating skin receptors and nerve endings around the knee.

The Bauerfeind GenuTrain P3 patella knee support is a similar product that comes with a massage pad insert that eases pain and inflammation and activates joint stabilizing muscles. This makes it a great knee brace for patellar tracking correction.

Besides wearing a knee brace for patellar tracking problems, treatment should also involve physical therapy that strengthens and improves the flexibility of one’s muscles. Such exercises for patellar tracking can correct any imbalances or tight tissues that might be to blame for a medial or lateral tracking patella.

Weight loss (if applicable) can also reduce strain on one’s knees and help prevent subluxation of the knee cap.

In some cases one might benefit from the shoe inserts that help remedy abnormal patellar tracking caused by being knock-kneed or flat footed.

But sometimes, surgery is the only option for patellar subluxation treatment. Physical therapy focusing on knee tracking exercises will likely be needed after such procedures. One may also need a patellar tracking disorder brace as one gets back to physical activity.