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Getting Your Kneecap Back in the Groove

Patellar subluxation occurs when the kneecap moves slightly out of its groove at the end of the thigh bone and then comes back into place. A serious condition, subluxation is often painful and may lead to actual dislocation of the kneecap. Another problem is that subluxation puts additional strain on certain structures, requiring a person to use the hip and thigh muscles to help control the patella.


There are two types of subluxations: traumatic and atraumatic. 

Traumatic subluxation is caused by an accident while atraumatic subluxation is not caused by a specific injury. The atraumatic variation occurs more frequently in women; this happens when a person’s joints stretch farther than normal (“loose jointed”). Other factors that may cause a subluxation include abnormalities in the stride, a wider pelvis and a shallow groove for the kneecap.
Subluxation can be a one-time problem or a recurring situation.

While an atraumatic subluxation is possible, subluxation in adults is usually due to a sports injury or overuse of the knee joint for a period of time.


Fortunately, subluxation is often treated successfully with physical therapy. Many exercises particularly emphasize the hips, because strengthening the hip abductors and hip flexors through pelvic stabilization exercises controls the kneecap better.


In addition to exercise, the following procedures will help speed your recovery:

Elevate the knee by putting a pillow underneath your leg.

Ice the knee for 20 to 30 minutes every three to four hours for two to three days.

Wear a brace prescribed by your doctor to keep your kneecap in place.

It is important to remember that everyone recuperates from a condition such as this at a different rate.

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann is a premier physical therapist based out of Bergen County, New Jersey. He holds an MS in physical therapy from the University of Miami, is credentialed in the world-renowned McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), and holds an OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist) certification. As of 2018, there are approximately 14,000 ABPTS certified specialists in the nation and less than 400 of them are located in the state of New Jersey. Tom is the owner and director of Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Paramus. He opened the clinic, which specializes in spine and sports injury prevention, in 2004 after many years of experience in the field. Tom’s caring interest in others and his strong belief in continuity of care, combined with his clinic’s ability to find solutions for the most difficult orthopedic problems, have earned Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation its excellent reputation with patients and medical professionals in northeastern New Jersey and beyond. A true “family man,” Tom takes pride in his clinic’s warm and welcoming environment.
Tom Willemann

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