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Knee Pain Health Center

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Patellar Tracking Disorder - Topic Overview

How is patellar tracking disorder diagnosed?

It can be hard to tell the difference between patellar tracking disorder and some other knee problems. To find out what problem you have, your doctor will:

  • Ask questions about your past health, your activities, when the pain started, and whether it was caused by an injury, overuse, or something else.
  • Feel, move, and look at your knee as you sit, stand, and walk.

You may have an X-ray so your doctor can check the position and condition of your knee bones. If more information is needed, you may have an MRI.

How is it treated?

Patellar tracking disorder can be a frustrating problem, but be patient. Most people feel better after a few months of treatment. As a rule, the longer you have had this problem, the longer it will take to get better.

Treatment of patellar tracking disorder has two goals: to reduce your pain and to strengthen the muscles around your kneecap to help it stay in place. If you don't have severe pain or other signs of a dislocated kneecap, you can try home treatment for a week or two to see if it will reduce your pain.

  • Take a break from activities that cause knee pain, like squatting, kneeling, running, and jumping.
  • Put ice on your knee, especially before and after activity. After 2 or 3 days, you can try heat to see if that helps.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce pain and swelling. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

As your knee pain starts to decrease, do exercises to increase strength and flexibility in your leg and hip. Your doctor or a physical therapist can help you plan an exercise program that fits your condition. You will probably start with one or two exercises and add others over time. Make sure to closely follow the instructions you're given.

Your doctor or physical therapist may also suggest that you:

  • Tape your knee camera.gif to hold the kneecap in place.
  • Use a knee brace camera.gif for extra knee support.
  • Try shoe inserts (orthotics) to improve the position of your feet.
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