Patella dislocation

The patella can dislocate outside of its normal position, typically around the exterior of the knee. In some cases, it can also partly dislocate which is called a subluxation.


In most cases, pain can be felt immediately at the time of injury. Swelling is expected to manifest in the knee joint and there is an evident displacement of the kneecap. Oftentimes, the kneecap can be briefly dislocated and then return to its normal position, even though the swelling and pain will still be present.

Close look on patella dislocation

The patella is positioned in front of the knee joint and glides up and down the patellofemoral groove at the front part of the thigh bone and the knee is bent. Take note that the patella is connected to the quadriceps muscles through the quadriceps tendon and functions to increase the leverage from this group of muscles when the knee is straightened.

Patella dislocation

In most cases, pain can be felt immediately at the time of injury.

Patella dislocation occurs once the patella moves or is moved externally out of the patellofemoral groove and onto the head of the femur. If subluxation occurs, the knee is partly out of position.

An acute blow or twisting movement of the knee causes dislocation. In most circumstances, the patella will relocate to the patellofemoral groove when the knee is straightened, however this is usually very painful.


You have to utilize the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) on the affected knee. The individual is encouraged to rest and start the application of an ice pack at 10-15 minutes every hour initially and steadily reducing the frequency as the symptoms subside. If you want to learn more about this treatment method register for first aid training.

It is important to avoid any sports or activities. Remember that an individual who experienced patella dislocation is often prone to end up with another one. A knee support can be used for added protection to the joint. There are stabilizing braces specifically for the patella that are designed to provide support to the kneecap.

Once the acute symptoms subside, a rehabilitation program focused on knee strengthening is started in order to avoid future recurrence. The exercises are focused on the vastus medialis muscle that is situated on the interior of the quadriceps.

When to consult a doctor

A doctor can confirm a diagnosis. A patellar dislocation can oftentimes have comparable symptoms to an injury to anterior cruciate ligament due to the perceivable crack or popping sound as well as the sensation that the knee is about to give away.

When managing the pain, the doctor will provide an anesthetic and realign the patella if it has not already repositioned. Anti-inflammatory medications or NSAIDs may be given to minimize the inflammation and pain.

There are also taping techniques that can help provide added support to the patella, particularly if the individual needs to stay mobile and if there is a risk for further dislocation. In most cases, an X-ray or arthroscopy will be used to evaluate the severity of the injury sustained. Surgery might be needed if there are loose fragments of bone or other substantial damage to the surrounding structures.