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What is patella tracking disorder?



Patella tracking disorder is when the patella does not move properly and this can cause pain.

The patella (kneecap) is a piece of bone that sits over the knee joint. When the knee bends or straightens, the patella moves up or down in a groove at the bottom of the thigh bone (femur). Patella tracking disorder is when the patella does not move within the groove. Commonly, it moves towards the outside of the leg, but in some cases it can move to the inside. This can cause pain and there can be several causes for it to happen.

Patella tracking disorder may also be known as patellofemoral pain syndrome or anterior (front) knee pain.

How does patella tracking disorder happen?



There can be several causes to patella tracking disorder, and there may be more than problem that is causing it. Common causes are:
  • Shape of the patella
  • Shallow groove at the bottom of the thigh bone
  • Weak thigh muscles (Quadriceps)
  • Imbalance/tight/loose muscles, ligaments or tendons in the hip, leg or foot can cause patella tracking disorder by creating biomechanical problems
  • Overuse of the knee, especially putting a heavy load through the knee such as running or jumping
  • Patella cartilage damage
  • A heavy blow to the patella, especially from the side

What are the symptoms of patella tracking disorder?



Most of the time the onset of pain will be gradual unless it is the result of a heavy blow to the side of the knee, in which case pain will be sudden. There can be other signs and symptoms such as:
  • Patella is visually not moving in the correct way
  • Grinding, popping or catching sensation at the patella when bending or straightening the leg
  • Pain or discomfort when using stairs, sitting to standing, sitting for long periods or squatting
  • Knee giving way

What should I do if I have patella tracking disorder?



If you have or suspect you have patella tracking disorder, you should consult a physiotherapist as they will be able to provide treatment to help to re-align the knee. To relieve pain you can try applying ice to the patella using a bag of frozen peas or crushed ice wrapped in a damp cloth for 15–20 minutes over the patella every 1–2 hours.


What shouldn’t I do if I have patella tracking disorder?



If you have or suspect you have patella tracking disorder, you should avoid activities that make the pain worse or put too much load through the knee such as running or jumping. As well as making your pain worse this can make the problem worse and it will take longer to treat.


Physiotherapy treatment for patella tracking disorder.



There are several treatments that your physiotherapist can use to try and re-align the patella and reduce your pain. This treatment can include:
  • Muscle strengthening exercises
  • Muscle stretching exercises
  • Taping or bracing the knee
  • Orthotics (insoles) if the cause is biomechanical
  • Education on activity and exercise

Could there be any long-term effects from patella tracking disorder?



The long term outcome depends on the severity of the miss-alignment of the kneecap. Usually physiotherapy treatment can resolve the problem and you can gradually get back to your previous activity level. If the problem is quite severe then long term management may be needed and the knee may always need to be taped or braced during exercise.

Please call Physio.co.uk on 0330 088 7800 to arrange an appointment or book online today.


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