Patellar Tracking Disorder

Patellar tracking disorder occurs when the alignment of the patella (kneecap) shifts out of place when the leg bends or straightens. The kneecap shifts outside of the leg in most cases; however, it can shift toward the inside of the leg. Problems in other areas in or around the knee can also result in patellar tracking disorder.


A combination of several structural problems with the bones in the leg typically causes patellar tracking disorder. This can include weak thigh muscles, tendons or ligaments that are too tight or loose, and traumatic injury to the knee. Obesity and repetitive stress to the knee are other factors that can lead to patellar tracking disorder.


Symptoms of patellar tracking disorder can include pain at the front of the knee when jumping, kneeling, and using stairs. Grinding and popping sensations are noticeable when bending or extending the leg. A feeling of instability or buckling in the knee are also common.


Physicians will conduct a thorough examination to properly diagnose a patellar tracking disorder, including moving the knee and watching the knee as the patient walks, sits, and stands. Symptoms and medical history will also be assessed. X-rays may be used to understand the condition of the knee and surrounding area.


Treatment for patellar tracking disorder commonly includes rest, ice, and over the counter pain medications. Knee taping and bracing to assist with alignment, shoe bracing, and physical therapy is also effective. Most people feel better after a few months of treatment; however, surgery may be required if conservative methods are not working.

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