Dislocated Knee

By Ehren Allen, Certified Manual Therapist/ Physical Therapist

What is 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.  A dislocation of the knee is pretty rare.  It can occur in a contact sport like football or in an auto accident.

Knee Dislocation

Dislocated Knee

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 into 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.

image of dislocated patella

Image of 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, a more involved procedure such as an osteotomy is performed.  This is 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. Multiple procedures to be necessary due to the major structures which may have injury.

Physical therapy before surgery will increase muscle activity and decrease swelling. After surgical intervention, Physical therapy will help to restore mobility, strength, and function.

How Long Does a Dislocated Knee Take to Heal?

A long time! Some knee dislocations can take a year to recovery. This includes surgery and rehabilitation. The severity of ligament damage and repair will determine some of the lengths of recovery time. Recovery will take longer if nerves are compromised. In severe cases, a full recovery may not be possible.  That is why it is so important to seek medical attention right away after this injury.

How Do I Know if I Dislocated My Knee?

You will feel tremendous pain and deformity is involved when a knee is dislocated. Therefore, immediate medical attention is typically necessary 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 vessels and nerve function. The physician will typically reduce the injury on-site if a physician is on-site. If this is not successful, the patient will need to seek emergency assistance.

The Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute has the team to handle a dislocated knee from start to finish.


Related Knee Articles:

Anatomy of the knee

Content knee anatomy

Knee ligaments

Knee anatomy

All JOI clinics are now offering telehealth from the convenience of your own house. Call 904-JOI-2000 to schedule today.

JOI Fracture and Injury Care Services

By: Ehren Allen, Certified Manual Therapist/Physical Therapist

Finally, 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.

Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician

Image of Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician

Skip to content