Treating Patellar Dislocation: Rehabilitation and Long-term Care for Knee Stability

Treating Patellar Dislocation: Rehabilitation and Long-term Care for Knee Stability


The patella, or kneecap, plays a pivotal role in our ability to move, bend, and support our weight, making it essential to our daily activities and athletic endeavors. Yet, it is also prone to dislocation, a condition that not only causes immediate pain but can lead to long-term complications if not properly addressed. This article aims to shed light on patellar dislocation, offering insight into its causes, those at risk, preventative measures, and the possible long-term implications of this injury.

Understanding Patellar Dislocation

Patellar dislocation occurs when the kneecap slides out of its normal position, often moving to the outside of the knee. This can happen through direct impact or sudden changes in direction while the foot is planted, making athletes particularly vulnerable. However, it's not solely reserved for the sports field; everyday activities can also pose risks.

Who Is at Risk?

Certain factors can increase the likelihood of experiencing a patellar dislocation. These include having a high kneecap, shallow or uneven groove in the thigh bone where the kneecap rests, or ligaments that are more lax than usual. Young athletes, especially females, are at a higher risk due to these anatomical and hormonal factors.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Preventing patellar dislocation centers on strengthening the muscles around the knee, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings, to ensure they provide adequate support and stabilisation. Exercises that enhance balance and proprioception can also reduce the risk by improving the body's ability to sense its position and movement, thereby preventing awkward movements that could lead to dislocation.

Long-term Complications

While a one-time dislocation can be treated, recurrent dislocations can lead to chronic pain and instability, and even arthritis in the knee joint. It's crucial to seek proper medical care following a dislocation to assess and treat any underlying issues that may predispose the knee to future injuries.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: How is a patellar dislocation treated? Initial treatment typically involves the "RICE" protocol (rest, ice, compression, elevation), followed by a tailored rehabilitation program focusing on strengthening and stabilising the knee. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct underlying anatomical issues.

Q2: Can I continue to play sports after a patellar dislocation? Yes, but it's essential to undergo a comprehensive rehabilitation program and obtain clearance from a healthcare professional to reduce the risk of re-injury.

Q3: How can I strengthen my knees to prevent patellar dislocation? Focusing on exercises that strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings is key. Additionally, incorporating balance and proprioception exercises into your routine can improve knee stability.

Q4: Are there any specific shoes or orthotics I should wear to prevent patellar dislocation? While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, wearing supportive shoes that fit well can help. In some cases, orthotics designed to correct foot and leg alignment may also be beneficial.

Q5: What are the signs that I should see a doctor for my knee? If you experience severe pain, swelling, an inability to move the knee, or if the knee gives way during activities, it's crucial to seek medical advice promptly.

Q6: Can patellar dislocation lead to long-term issues? If not properly treated, recurrent dislocations can increase the risk of developing chronic knee pain and instability, as well as early-onset arthritis in the affected knee.


Patellar dislocation, while common, should not be taken lightly. Understanding the risks, preventative measures, and the importance of proper treatment is essential for anyone looking to maintain healthy, active knees. By embracing the principles of prevention, early intervention, and comprehensive rehabilitation, individuals can safeguard their knees against the long-term consequences of patellar dislocation.