Dislocated Patella

By Chad Evans, MPT

Dislocated Patella or Knee Cap

A dislocated patella is not as serious as a dislocated knee. Consult an orthopedic physician.

Image of a dislocated knee cap.

A dislocated patella or knee cap is when  primarily caused by a traumatic incident where the knee twists or a direct blow to the knee area. A secondary cause can be from tight or stronger lateral structures of the knee. After a dislocation, it is important to make sure that a physical therapy program is followed to strengthen the medial knee muscles or the vastus medialis muscle or VMO. Most dislocations occur laterally or to the outside of your knee.  Therefore, it is important to be evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon after a patella dislocation. Once this occurs, reoccurence is common.

If you are interested in learning more about this subject, please click here.

Dislocated Patella Symptoms

Typical signs and symptoms of a patellar dislocation include:

  • Rapid swelling and extreme pain.
  • Continued pain along medial (inside) ligaments.
  • Discoloration medially at site of ligament injury.
  • Instability of the knee.


The treatment of a dislocated knee varies depending upon the severity of the injury. If the injury is less severe, the patella may relocate before the individual makes it to the hospital while others will remain out of place until aided by a physician. If the kneecap relocates without further injury, here are some common treatment techniques:

  • RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
  • Immobilization: Your physician may recommend a brace or cast to prevent re-injury.
  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist at JOI can prescribe a variety of stretches and exercises.  These help the patient regain their full range of motion while strengthening the structure of the knee.

Dislocated Knee

A dislocated knee is a very serious injury and 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.

If you need to see an Orthopedic Specialist for your knee, please call JOI-2000 or follow the link below.

Book An Appointment with a JOI knee Physician.

Image of Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician Button.

If you are interested in other articles about the knee, please go to our Knee Library.

Skip to content