Dislocated Kneecap

Dislocated kneecapThe painful news is that if you have a dislocated kneecap you will know. The knee pain associated with it is quite severe.

Dislocated knee cap pain happens because the c-shaped bone covering the knee (patella) moves or shifts out of place. Luckily, in most cases the kneecap shifts back into place after the injury occurs.

However, if it doesn’t then seek medical attention immediately. An improperly treated knee dislocation can lead to serious issues down the line.


Sports such as basketball, football and soccer sometimes result in painful knee injuries like a dislocated kneecap. Simply put, these types of sports require you to plant your foot and change body direction rapidly. Although they don’t happen often, a wrong turn or a hard blow to the knee could cause this painful injury.

In addition it happens more often in women, young athletes, and in overweight individuals who exercise improperly. It is also known to occur to those with a family history of knee instability.

Below is a list of all the causes of a dislocated kneecap.

  • Hard blow to the knee
  • Hard fall to the knee
  • Soft ligaments surrounding the knee
  • A prior knee dislocation
  • Family history
  • Overweight individuals who exercise


Pain is a very common symptom of a dislocated knee. however, sometimes that isn’t the case and other symptoms may occur. These include:

  • Severe pain & tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth, bruising or redness
  • A visibly dislocated kneecap, usually towards the outside of the knee joint
  • An extreme and easily movable kneecap (Don’t touch your kneecap)
  • Instability
  • An inability to straighten the leg


If you think you have a dislocated kneecap visit your doctor or see an orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible. Depending on the severity of your knee pain an examination may include walking around, straightening your leg and bending at the knee.

In addition, the doctor may feel the kneecap area, take measurements and request X-rays. This is done to eliminate other possible knee pain conditions such as a cartilage injuries or ligament tears of the knee.


If you think you have a dislocated kneecap DO NOT try to treat yourself even if the kneecap moves back into place. However, you or someone else can immobilize your knee with a splint and use icepacks for 15 to 20 minutes. Other treatments for a dislocated kneecap may include:

  • Pushing your kneecap back into place
  • Knee brace for support

Knee brace searching? Take a look at the knee brace guide to help you find the best knee brace for your needs.

  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery (not common)
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Caution! – A dislocated kneecap that is left untreated can ultimately result in long term damage to your knee joint.


It is not always possible to prevent a dislocated kneecap injury. Especially if you are very active in sports. However, there are various ways you can reduce the possibilities of it occurring.

  • Use proper exercise technique
  • Warm up properly
  • Wear a knee support
  • Wear proper shoes
  • Play sports with preparation and care
  • Strengthen and stretch the muscles that support the knee joint
  • Learn about your family knee history
  • Change or reduce rigorous knee activity

Take a look at our list of 20 healing activities that are easy on your knees. Any stressful activities or exercises must be avoided while you have an injured knee. These easy pain relief exercises can help improve your condition as well.

Have You Ever suffered a dislocated kneecap? Please Comment Below.

Article last updated on January 8th, 2019, first published on July 9, 2013.

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