Alexander E Weber, MD
Orthopaedic surgeon & sports Medicine specialist

Understanding Patella Dislocations: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Sep 08, 2023
Patella dislocations, where the kneecap (patella) shifts out of its normal position within the knee joint, can be both painful and concerning. We'll explore the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures for patella dislocations.

Causes of Patella Dislocations:

Patella dislocations typically occur due to a sudden twist or force applied to the knee joint. Common causes include:

  • Direct Trauma: A blow or impact to the knee can force the patella out of place.

  • Muscle Imbalance: Weak or imbalanced thigh muscles can affect patella tracking, increasing the risk of dislocation.

  • Structural Factors: Anatomical abnormalities or genetic predisposition can make some individuals more susceptible to patella dislocations.


The following symptoms are often associated with patella dislocations:

  • Pain and Swelling: Severe pain and swelling around the kneecap.

  • Visible Dislocation: In many cases, the patella can be seen out of its normal position.

  • Limited Mobility: Difficulty in bending or straightening the knee.

  • Instability: A feeling of instability or "giving way" in the knee.

Treatment Options:

The initial approach for patella dislocations is often focused on reducing the dislocation and managing pain and swelling. Treatment options include:

  • Reduction: A healthcare professional will gently guide the patella back into its proper position.

  • Immobilization: After reduction, the knee may be immobilized with a brace or cast for several weeks to allow healing.

  • Physical Therapy: Rehabilitation exercises can help improve muscle strength and joint stability.

  • Surgery: In cases of recurrent dislocations or severe damage, surgical intervention may be necessary to stabilize the patella.

Preventive Measures:

Preventing patella dislocations involves:

  • Muscle Strengthening: Strengthening exercises, particularly those targeting the quadriceps, can help maintain proper patella tracking.

  • Balanced Training: Ensure a well-rounded exercise routine that includes flexibility and balance training.

  • Orthotics: In some cases, custom orthotic devices can help correct biomechanical issues.

  • Proper Footwear: Wear appropriate shoes for your activity, as improper footwear can contribute to knee issues.

  • Warm-Up and Stretching: Always warm up before exercising and incorporate stretching into your routine to improve joint mobility.

In conclusion, patella dislocations can be painful and disruptive, but with appropriate care and preventive measures, individuals can reduce their risk of experiencing this knee injury. If you suspect a patella dislocation, seek medical attention for proper evaluation and treatment to prevent long-term complications and ensure a full recovery.


Dr. Weber and his team treat over 200 Los Angeles athletes and weekend warriors with patella dislocations each year. We provide personalized treatment for all knee injuries from professional athletes to high school recreational players to weekend skiers. If you are a patient with a knee injury in Los Angeles, please reach out. We can see you within 24 hours.