Dislocated Knee

By Ehren Allen, Certified Manual Therapist/ Physical Therapist

Dislocated Knee Overview

JOI Knee Joint

Image of the knee joint.

Can you still Walk with a Dislocated Knee?

A dislocated knee is a very serious injury. This is not the same as dislocating the knee cap. It would be virtually impossible to walk with a dislocated knee. The thigh bone (femur) connects to the shin bone (tibia) at the knee. There are major ligaments that hold the joint together. Furthermore, dislocating the knee would tear multiple ligaments and cause the knee to destabilize. There are large blood vessels and nerves that pass by the knee. Also, dislocating the knee would likely compromise one or more of those major structures.

What does a Dislocated Kneecap Feel Like?

Dislocating the knee cap (patella) is more common than a full knee dislocation. The knee cap typically dislocates to the outside. This can be very painful when it occurs. Usually, the pain reduces significantly when the knee cap pops back in to place. This may occur on its own or with assistance from a medical professional. A knee cap dislocation often causes damage to the knee joint surfaces and ligaments that stabilize the knee cap.

Knee dislocations are an injury treated by orthopaedic physicians.

Image of a dislocated patella.

Usually, physical therapy can help with increasing the stability of the knee cap after a dislocation. A brace is sometimes helpful to provide support to the knee cap. In cases of repeated dislocation, surgery may be required to repair damaged ligaments and release tight structures. Sometimes, more involved procedure such an osteotomy is performed to reposition tendon attachment sites to alter the direction of forces on the knee cap and hopefully decrease the chance of dislocations.

How Do You Treat a Dislocated Knee?

True knee dislocations typically require at least one surgery to repair damaged structures. It is not uncommon for multiple procedures to be required due to the major structures which may be compromised.

Physical therapy may be provided prior to surgery to increase muscle activity and decrease swelling. After a surgical intervention, Physical therapy will likely be required for an extended period to restore mobility, strength and function.

How Long Does it Take to Heal from a Dislocated Knee?

A long time! Some knee dislocations can take a year for recovery. This includes surgery and rehabilitation. The severity of ligament damage and repair will determine some of the length of recovery time. If nerves are compromised, it will take longer. In severe cases, a full recovery may not be possible.

How Do I Know if I Dislocated My Knee?

If you have to ask this question, it’s not dislocated! Tremendous pain and deformity are involved when a knee is dislocated. Immediate medical attention is typically required to stabilize the injury and assess the severity

Can you Pop a Dislocated Knee Back into Place?

A knee cap dislocation may pop back into place easily. A true knee dislocation is not that simple, a physician will relocate, or reduce the dislocation but they will likely assess blood vessel and nerve function first. The physician will typically reduce the injury on site if a physician is on site. Otherwise, it will be relocated at the emergency department.

The Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute has the team to handle a dislocated knee from start to finish. From the certified athletic trainers who are the first responders, to the orthopedic surgeons, to the physical therapist, JOI is a true integrated service team!

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment at JOI Rehab for physical therapy, call (904) 858-7045. If you would like to make an appointment to see an orthopedic knee specialist, click the banner below.


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By: Ehren Allen, Certified Manual Therapist/Physical Therapist

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