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Patella Tracking

Most often, the patella will shift excessively towards the outside of your leg, however, in some cases although less common; it is possible for it to shift towards the inside. The knee joint is a hinge which connects the tibia and fibula of your leg with your femur. The kneecap is held in its natural position via ligaments on its sides and tendons on its top. In the underside of the kneecap, a layer of cartilage helps the patella glide along the groove situated at the end of your femur. The patella can rotate or shift off its natural position if the cartilage underneath it is damaged or the groove of the femur is too shallow. Misalignment of the patella can result from tendons, muscles or ligaments that are too tight or too loose.


Patella tracking disorder is not always caused by a single issue; often it is a combination of many issues. Causes may include the shape of the patella or damage to the cartilage. Problems can also stem from tight or loose tendons surrounding the knee, muscles or ligaments around hip areas, leg or foot. Overuse and overtraining can also result in patellar tracking problems. Patella tracking disorder can also occur as a direct result of a trauma injury, such as a severe blow to the inside of the knee, knocking the patella out of its natural alignment. In extreme cases, the patella can also get dislocated. If you suspect a dislocated patella, watch out for symptoms such as knee swelling, severe pain, inability to straighten or bend the knee and a misshapen kneecap.

Risk factors

Patella tracking disorder may run in the family, however, there are certain risk factors within your  control, some of which include:

  • Not wearing improper or unsupportive footwear
  • Being overweight, this puts unnecessary strain on joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles
  • Weak quadriceps, your knees will have to compensate for this
  • Imbalance of quadriceps; if the outer region of your thighs are stronger than the inner thighs this imbalance will transfer on to the knees.
  • Improper form or techniques while working out or during sports activities
  • Sports which require excessive knee bending, jumping or squatting
  • Running, especially on the hills

Risk factors you cannot control include:

  • Having a family history of knees issues.
  • A previous incident of kneecap dislocation.
  • Abnormalities of the knee such as shallow femoral groove, a flat or small patella, a patella tendon that is too long or knock-knees
  • Previous knee surgery
  • Cartilage damage
  • Poorly healed injury of the knee, leg, foot or hip

Signs and symptoms of Patella Tracking Disorder

Misalignment of the kneecap however minor, may result in pain and discomfort, especially when sitting, squatting, or standing for prolonged periods; walking up and down stairs is another common trigger for pain. This pain is also termed as patellofemoral pain, which is commonly caused by a patella tracking disorder. A popping sensation, slipping, catching or grinding of the kneecap are common symptoms of patella tracking disorder when you straighten or bend your leg. It may feel as if your knee is giving away as though you can’t support your body weight with your knee anymore, this is common in adolescent but rarely permanent. However, even though patella tracking may cause knee pain, knee pain doesn’t always necessarily indicate a patella tracking disorder there are many more causes of knee pain.

Treatment Options For Patella Tracking Disorder

Conventional home treatments are only considered if signs and symptoms do not include any swelling, giving way, severe pain or dislocation. If symptoms are manageable apple PRICE protocol. Over the counter pain medication can also help to reduce pain. A knee support can be a great help on a day to day basis, click here to view our range of braces that help with patella tracking issues. It is also possible to tape to prevent the kneecap from moving unnaturally using kinesiology tape, click here to see how, you can do this using a roll or the SpiderTech pre cut for knees. As pain decreases, strengthening and stretching exercises for the quadriceps may help to improve the stability of the kneecap. Your physiotherapist or doctor should provide you with a suitable exercise plan to rehabilitate your knees. In some cases, surgery may be required to realign the misplaced kneecap. However, usually nonsurgical interventions are sufficient to treat patella tracking issues. Generally, the longer you’ve had the problem, the longer it is going to take to treat or cure it. If you are experience severe knee pain or if you suspect you may have dislocated your knee seek immediate medical attention.