Patellar tracking disorder is an imbalance in the knee area that
causes the kneecap (patella) to shift or tilt out of place as the leg bends or
straightens. Symptoms include a dull ache under or around the kneecap, or a
popping, grinding, slipping, or catching sensation in the kneecap as the knee
bends or extends.
Other symptoms of a patellar tracking disorder include swelling of
the knee or a buckling or "giving way" of the knee, where the knee suddenly
fails to support body weight. A patellar tracking disorder may be caused by a
combination of things, including:
Weak thigh muscles
Tendons, ligaments, or muscles in the leg that are
too tight or too loose.
Engaging in activities that repeatedly
stress the knee.
A traumatic injury to the knee, or a history of
A genetic predisposition to knee problems.
Knee pain can be slow to heal. But most people who have patellar
tracking disorder find relief with a few months of nonsurgical treatment,
including rest from the aggravating activity, icing the knee, and nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). After 2 or 3 days of using ice, you can try heat to see if it helps. Physical therapy and bracing or taping the
knee can also help to relieve knee pain. In chronic or severe cases, surgery
may be needed to realign the kneecap, restore normal tracking, and repair
damage to the knee.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Patrick J. McMahon, MD - Orthopedic Surgery
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