Kneecap (Patella) Pain And Instability, What Can Be Done?

Proper movement of the hip and leg are essential for walking, jumping, running. During any leg movement, your kneecap (patella) moves up and down because of contraction and relaxation of the quadriceps muscles. Bending your leg pulls the kneecap down and straightening your leg brings it up.

There is an indention or groove in the front of your leg that allows the kneecap to glide smoothly up and down and not rub directly onto the bone. Sometimes the indention is not deep enough, muscles are not working properly or your bone is out of place.  This can cause your kneecap to move improperly and slide outside of the groove. In time, this promotes arthritis, pain and long term bad body mechanics. This can lead to painful surgery and long periods of rehabilitation.

Here are some symptoms of kneecap instability and incorrect body mechanics:

    • 1. Knee buckles and can no longer support your weight

2. Kneecap slips off to the side

3. Knee catches during movement

4. Pain in the front of the knee that increases with activity (especially while running)

5. Pain when sitting, standing or bending

6. Stiffness

7. Cracking sounds during movement

8. Swelling and pain


If the kneecap has been completely dislocated out of the indention or groove, it must be put back. This is not as painful as it sounds. Sometimes it can happen when you are bending or moving. The kneecap just pops back into place. Other times, it is gently placed back in the groove with an adjustment.
During an examination, I can normally figure out if one of your quadriceps muscles is either too strong or too weak. This can lead an improper pull of the kneecap during movement. Stretches or exercises can even out the force in the area and keep your kneecap moving properly.

Allowing the kneecap to move properly in the groove will keep the risk of arthritis, tendonitis and knee replacement at low risk.  It will also allow you to keep the active life style that you need to stay fit and healthy.