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Unstable Kneecap

What is an Unstable Kneecap?

An unstable kneecap refers to a condition where the patella (kneecap) becomes displaced from its normal position within the femoral groove, causing a range of issues including pain and mobility problems that may require medical attention.

What does an Unstable Kneecap feel like?

Symptoms of an unstable kneecap may include:

  • Creaking or cracking sounds during movement.
  • The knee buckling and being unable to support your weight.
  • The knee catching during movement.
  • The kneecap slipping to the side.
  • Pain in the front of the knee that increases with activity.
  • Pain when sitting.
  • Stiffness.
  • Swelling.

What causes an Unstable Kneecap?

The kneecap, also known as the patella, plays a crucial role in leg movement by connecting the front thigh muscles to the shinbone. It functions as a gliding mechanism, facilitating the smooth bending and straightening of the leg as it moves up and down. This seamless motion is made possible by the interaction between the kneecap and the femoral groove, a V-shaped indentation at the top of the thighbone. If there is a shallow or uneven femoral groove, the kneecap may partially or completely dislocate. Additionally, a strong impact on the knee, such as a fall or accident, can force the kneecap out of its normal position.

What are the non-surgical options for Unstable Kneecap?

For partial dislocations of the kneecap, exercise-based treatments and bracing may be prescribed. These activities help strengthen the muscles around the thigh, providing support to stabilise the knee in its correct alignment. Physical therapists may recommend cycling in conjunction with the use of a stabilising brace to facilitate a faster recovery. Most patients can anticipate a return to normal activities within one to three months after treatment.

In cases of complete kneecap dislocation, reduction – getting the kneecap back into its proper position – is the first step. This can sometimes happen naturally, or a doctor may gently guide it back in place. If instability persists and becomes a chronic issue, surgery may be necessary.

What are the surgical options for Unstable Kneecap?

In the event that instability persists and becomes a chronic condition, patients may require surgical intervention to regain full mobility. Surgical interventions can realign and tighten tendons to ensure the kneecap remains in its proper position or address any obstructing tissues. Knee arthroscopy, a common surgical technique used to treat an unstable kneecap, is detailed below. 

Knee Arthroscopy

​Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure used by doctors to both diagnose and treat joint pain without resorting to major surgery. Through small incisions, slender instruments are inserted, allowing for visual examination and targeted interventions within the joint. This procedure aims to reduce pain, increase mobility, and facilitate a swift return to regular activities.

To learn more about the knee arthroscopy procedure, as well as what you can expect prior to, during, and after the surgery, please visit our Knee Arthroscopy page.

Contact Us

For further inquiries or to arrange a consultation, please contact Professor Al Muderis’ office at +61 2 88829011 or book an appointment online.