Causes and Symptoms of Patellar Tracking Disorder

Author : Rao Ali | Published On : 02 Sep 2021

Have you ever heard about the patella? Though it’s a complex term, however, it’s another name for your kneecap. While the patella is a major part of your knee and supports your everyday movements, it is also prone to damages. One of the prevailing knee problems is patellar tracking disorder which causes your kneecap to displace from its original position when you move your leg. So, if you want to know more, this article highlights the causes and symptoms of patellar tracking disorder

How Complex is Your Knee? 

Usually, the kneecap shifts unduly towards the external side of your leg, though in a few cases, it may move to the internal side also. So, your knee joint is a pivot that links the shinbone and fibula with the thigh bone. 

Hence, your patella is fixed to its origin through tendons on the top, and ligaments on the sides. Below the kneecap, there is a cartilage layer that supports the patella slide along the channel located at the end of the thigh bone. 

Your kneecap can revolve or move from its origin if the cartilage gets damaged or the femur channel is narrow. However, patellar misalignment is caused due to very tight or loose ligaments, tendons, or muscles. 

What are the Causes? 

Patellar tracking disorder is a myriad of problems. So, the majority of the time the primary cause is the damaged kneecap or cartilage. However, the problem originates from tight or loose ligaments, tendons, or muscles of your hip region, limb, or feet. Also, muscle misuse and overtraining can lead to kneecap displacement. 

Another reason for this problem is shock or trauma to the knee like knocked knee or serious hit to the knee that disturbs its natural alignment. However, in risky cases, the kneecap gets displaced. So, if you doubt a displaced patella, you may experience severe pain behind knee, inflammation, and a disability to move or flex the knee. 

What are the Risk Factors? 

The patellar disorder can be inherited. Though, some of the following risk factors you can control: 

  • Bad Footwear 

  • Obesity 

  • Constricted tendons, ligaments, and muscles

  • Feeble quadriceps 

  • The exterior thigh area is tougher than the inner one. 

  • Improper exercise techniques 

  • Wrong body movements during sports activities 

  • Excessive flexing, jumping, or squatting 

  • Running on highlands 

However, there are a few risk factors that you cannot control:

  • Genetics of having knee problems 

  • Serious accident that dislocates your kneecap 

  • Knee abnormalities like narrow femoral channel, flat or tiny kneecap, long patella tendon, or knocked knee. 

  • Former knee surgery 

  • Damaged cartilage 

  • Badly injured knee, limb, hip, or foot. 

What are the Symptoms? 

So, when your patella is misaligned, you may experience pain and discomfort. Pain intensifies when you sit for a long duration, squat, raise from a seat, or walk downstairs. 

Other symptoms include a bursting, crushing, gliding, or popping sensation in the knee, particularly when you flex or flatten your leg. You may feel that your knee is “giving away” and you are unable to support your body weight. 

However, if you have knee pain, this does not necessarily mean that you suffer from a patellar tracking ailment. In case of serious knee pain or if you feel that you have a displaced knee, you should immediately seek medical help. 

What is the Treatment? 

If you suffer from kneecap disorder, you must try traditional home treatments if you are not experiencing any inflammation, pain, or displacement. Also, if your symptoms are mild, you may take a break from strenuous activities that may trigger pain. Examples include exercising, sports activities, squatting, running, prolonged sitting, or kneeling.  

You may also try ice therapy on the affected regions as it will help reduce pain and inflammation. Moreover, OTC can also help diminish pain. A knee support can also be effective in treating the patellar problem. 

As pain controls, you may try muscle-strengthening workouts and stretching techniques that target your thighs. It will help stabilize your kneecap. Your consultant or physiotherapist can suggest to you an ideal exercise plan that matches your condition. 

Physiotherapy Treatment to Treat Kneecap Problems 

There are many treatments that your therapist may suggest for realignment of the patella and regulate your pain. Some suggestions include: 

  • Muscle fortifying workouts 

  • Muscle stretching techniques 

  • Taping or supporting the knee 

  • Orthotics if the root cause is biochemical 

  • Educate you about various activities and exercises and their impacts. 

However, in severe cases, your consultant may suggest surgery to realign the kneecap. Though, non-surgical treatments are enough to treat the condition. Typically, the longer you have suffered from the ailment, the more time it will take to treat the condition. 

What Should You Do If You Suffer from Patella Disorder? 

If you feel you suffer from a patella problem, you should immediately see a consultant or physiotherapist. They will recommend you appropriate treatment that will help you realign your knee. Hence, to elevate pain, you can apply ice pads on the patella, for fifteen to twenty minutes after every hour. 

What You Should Avoid? 

If you feel that you have a damaged or dislocated kneecap, you should avoid strenuous activities like running, jumping, or exercising that worsen the pain. Also, you should not put pressure on your knees, so no weight lifting. However, if you adopt a careless attitude, your pain may worsen, and the treatment will take longer and might be complex. 

Are there any long-term effects of this disorder? 

The long-term results are subject to the severity of the kneecap misalignment. Generally, physiotherapy is ideal to treat the problem and regain normal routine activities. However, if the problem is serious, then your consultant will guide you about long-term management. Also, in this condition, you should always use a knee tape or knee support while exercising. 

How Can You Prevent It? 

  • You should stretch your legs before and after your workout. 

  • Exercise to build and match the muscle strength around your knees, thighs, and hips. 

  • Manage healthy weight. 

  • Stay active. 


If you are a sporty person or involved in regular exercise, it might be challenging to avoid your routine activities. However, resting is the best way to recover fast, as any harsh activities can place unnecessary pressure on your knees. So, the best way is to discuss with your consultant how you can cope with your problems.