Your Guide to Understanding Patellar Tracking Disorder

Noyes Knee Institute Signature

Published On

Aug 30, 2017


Patient Education

Patellar tracking disorder is a knee condition in which the patella, also known as the kneecap, tends to shift out of place as the leg moves. The kneecap usually shifts toward the outside of the leg when the leg bends and straightens.

While patellar tracking disorder can be painful, it is not often debilitating. Treatments are available, and with commitment and patience, the condition can be improved upon.

How Does the Knee Joint Work?

The knee joint is a hinge that connects the thigh and lower leg together and allows for movement. At the end of your thigh sits the kneecap, which is usually held in place with ligaments and tendons. With the proper amount of cartilage, the kneecap slides around effortlessly.

Unfortunately, something may go wrong, the thigh muscles may weaken over time, or the tendons and ligaments may tighten or loosen. Sometimes something simply pops out of alignment.

What Causes Patellar Tracking?

While aging influences the condition of muscles, tendons and ligaments, there are also certain activities may put stress on the knee. Traumatic injuries, like those common in sports injuries, may aid in pushing the kneecap out of place.

Patellar tracking may be worsened in patients who are overweight or who spend a lot of time running, squatting or jumping.

What Are Symptoms of Patellar Tracking?

There are many symptoms of patellar tracking disorder, including knee pain near the front of the knee. The pain tends to worsen when you are taking steps, kneeling, jumping or squatting.

Other symptoms include strange sounds coming of your knee, such as grinding or popping. You might even feel your knee slip or buckle.

How Is Patellar Tracking Disorder Diagnosed?

Diagnosis typically involves a physical examination of the knee. The doctor will examine the knee as you perform regular activities like walking, bending and squatting. The doctor will also ask for a history of your activities and health.

Additionally, the doctor will be looking to see if the pain is a symptom of another condition like patellofemoral pain syndrome.

How Is Patellar Tracking Disorder Treated?

Fortunately, patellar tracking disorder is treatable. The sooner you receive treatment, the less treatment the condition typically requires.

There are some things you can do at home, including wearing shoe inserts and stretching properly. Some cases may improve with weight loss as well.

First, your doctor will likely recommend that you take a break from some knee-stressing activities, like running and squatting. You can also ice your knee during painful moments.

If these remedies don’t work, your doctor may suggest nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. This medication is used to ease swelling and inflammation that may occur as a result of the condition, but the medications won’t treat the condition itself.

Do You Need Surgery for Patellar Tracking Disorder?

Some doctors may recommend that you work with a physical therapist to create an exercise regimen that increases your leg’s flexibility and strength. The quadriceps muscles in the thigh are largely responsible for keeping the kneecap strong. Progress may be slow at first, but with time and dedication the treatment can help and many patients can avoid surgery.

While most cases of patellar tracking disorder don’t require surgery one exception is if your kneecap becomes dislocated and other treatments simply aren’t working. Surgery may be more common in those over the age of 50 or who are experiencing debilitating pain and constant dislocation.

Are you concerned that you have patellar tracking disorder or another painful knee condition? Noyes Knee Institute may have the answers. We are ready to diagnose your condition and help you find a treatment that works for your condition. We’re focused on solving the problem at the root cause, and we have the experience to help you today.