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Patellar Instability Treatment Options

What is patellar instability?

Patellar instability refers to a condition where the kneecap (patella) moves out of its normal position, either partially or completely, causing pain, swelling, and functional limitations. This instability can result from various factors such as anatomical abnormalities, muscle imbalances, ligamentous laxity, or traumatic injury. Individuals with patellar instability may experience recurrent episodes of the kneecap dislocating or subluxating, particularly during activities that involve bending or straightening the knee. Diagnosis typically involves a thorough physical examination, imaging studies like X-rays or MRI, and possibly specialized tests to evaluate the stability of the patella.

How is patellar instability treated?

Treatment for patellar instability aims to reduce symptoms, prevent recurrent dislocations, and restore knee function. Common treatment options include:

What non-operative options are available?

Rest, activity modification, physical therapy to strengthen muscles, bracing, and patellar taping to improve patellar tracking and stability.

What operative options are available?

Surgery may be recommended for recurrent or severe cases of patellar instability, involving procedures such as medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) reconstruction, tibial tubercle osteotomy, or trochleoplasty to correct underlying anatomical abnormalities and stabilize the patella.

What does rehabilitation look like?

Following treatment, rehabilitation plays a crucial role in optimizing knee function and preventing recurrence of patellar instability. Rehabilitation programs may include:

  • Quadriceps Strengthening: Exercises targeting the quadriceps muscles to improve knee stability and tracking.
  • Hip and Core Strengthening: Exercises to strengthen the hip abductor and core muscles to provide additional support to the knee joint.
  • Neuromuscular Training: Balance and proprioception exercises to improve coordination and control of knee movements.
  • Flexibility Exercises: Stretching exercises to improve flexibility and mobility of the knee joint.
  • Activity Modification: Guidance on proper techniques and modifications to activities to reduce the risk of recurrent instability episodes.
  • In conclusion, prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential for managing patellar instability effectively and minimizing long-term complications. If you suspect you have patellar instability, seek evaluation and treatment from a qualified healthcare professional specializing in sports medicine or orthopedics.

Dr. Shane J. Nho is a board-certified fellowship-trained sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon specializing in the treatment of patellar instability. If you believe you are affected by patellar instability, schedule a consultation today with our experienced orthopaedic care team.

At a Glance

Dr. Shane Nho

  • Board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon
  • Team Physician for Chicago Bulls, White Sox, Steel
  • Performs more than 700 procedures each year
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