The knee joint is formed by the thigh bone (femur), the shinbone (tibia), and the kneecap (patella). The joint is reinforced and supported by cartilages, ligaments, tendons, and muscles to keep it stable during movements.
Knee Dislocation and Kneecap Dislocation are Two Different Conditions.
Knee dislocation occurs when the thigh bone moves out of its place relative to the shin bone. This rarely happens and it usually occurs together with ligament and/or tendon rupture.
It is caused by trauma such as falling from a height, sports-related accidents, or an automobile accident. Knee dislocation is a severe injury that involves the entire knee joint and is associated with nerve damage and rupture of the blood vessels.
Kneecap dislocation is a common and less severe injury as it only involves the kneecap or the flat bone in the front of the knee. The kneecap is situated on a groove on top of the knee where the thigh and shin bones meet.
It is kept in place by tendons and ligaments. As you straighten and bend your knee, the kneecap moves along this groove. Kneecap dislocation occurs when the kneecap moves out of its groove as a result of trauma or during sudden twisting or changing direction when the foot is fixed on the ground.
The kneecap can be dislocated on either side of the knee, but it is commonly dislocated towards the outer side.
How do you Know if you Popped or Dislocated Your Knee?
If your knee gets dislocated, you will hear a popping sound as the injury occurs. It would be extremely painful and swollen and your whole knee joint would look deformed.
Further, there is a high chance that you will not be able to bend and straighten your knee fully. It will feel highly unstable and you will not be able to put weight on your leg. Standing and walking will also be very difficult.
How Serious and Painful is a Dislocated Kneecap?
Kneecap dislocation is usually not a serious injury. However, it still depends on how the injury occurred and the severity of the damage to the ligaments and tendons that hold it on the knee joint.
In most mild cases, the kneecap can be repositioned and returned to its usual position through proper intervention. It can also return to its place by itself. Some individuals can go back to their usual activities after the injury.
If you have a severe kneecap dislocation, you might hear a popping sound accompanied by sudden swelling and sharp pain in the front of the knee during movement or when pressure is placed on it.
It will also be difficult to move your leg and your leg might get stuck in a certain position. Your kneecap will also look misaligned and not in its proper place.
Can You Still Walk With A Dislocated Knee?
Walking with a dislocated knee will be very difficult and painful. Since this condition is usually accompanied by damage to the ligaments, tendons, and other important structures, your knee will feel like it might give out and will be highly unstable.
Therefore, it is advisable to rest and refrain from placing weight on the affected area and seek immediate medical attention.
Can I Pop My Knee Back Into Place?
You cannot pop your knee back into place if you have knee dislocation. However, if it is only the kneecap that is dislocated and the injury is mild, the kneecap might be able to pop back into place by itself. Do not try to pop it back yourself as this may only result in further damage.
If your kneecap returns to its place by itself, it is still best to go to a doctor to have your knee checked. This is to ensure that you will be given proper treatment and to prevent further complications.
What Is The Fastest Way To Heal A Dislocated Kneecap?
Healing will depend on the type of injury and how severe it is. There is no fastest or easiest way to heal a dislocated kneecap. The best thing to do when you dislocate your knee is to rest and avoid putting pressure or weight on the affected leg.
In addition, do not try to reposition your kneecap by yourself. If your kneecap does not pop back on its own, a trained doctor can manually manipulate and reposition your kneecap to its proper place. This procedure is called patellar reduction.
Pain medications will also be given during and after a procedure, especially if you are in considerable pain. If there is excessive fluid in the joint as a result of swelling, this will be removed through joint aspiration wherein a syringe will be used to extract the fluid.
You may need to use a splint or a brace to prevent the kneecap from moving excessively and getting dislocated again. Some individuals may be required to use crutches to minimize putting weight on the affected leg and to allow adequate healing.
Physical therapy will be important to strengthen the muscles and ligaments that hold the kneecap in place and to prevent kneecap dislocation from recurring. It will also help in conditioning your muscles to facilitate your gradual return to your usual activities or sports training.
Do You Need Surgery For A Dislocated Knee?
A dislocated kneecap might need surgical intervention if the injury is severe and if there is considerable damage surrounding structures such as cartilages, ligaments, and tendons. Surgery can be done in two ways:
· Arthroscopic surgery
This type of surgery uses a small camera inserted inside the knee joint. The inside of the joint will be projected through a screen to help assess, locate, and determine the extent of damage to the structures.
· Reconstructive surgery
This is done to repair the damaged structures inside the knee joint and to reposition the kneecap back to its place.
How Long Before I Can Bend My Knee After Dislocation?
Full recovery after kneecap dislocation occurs within six to eight weeks. Initially, you will not be allowed to put weight on the affected knee and will be asked to refrain from moving your knee.
As the pain and swelling subside, exercises will be given to help you gradually return to your normal activities.
In mild cases, knee bending and weight-bearing on the affected leg may be possible after a week or two.
Before performing strenuous exercises or activities such as running and jumping, make sure that the injured knee is pain-free and functions the same way as your uninjured leg.
Should I Sleep With A Knee Immobilizer?
A knee immobilizer may be removed for bathing and sleeping, but it must be worn at all times when you are out of bed to stabilize and protect your knee.
If you have a severe case of knee dislocation or kneecap dislocation, you may be required by your doctor to elevate the affected area and wear the immobilizer even while sleeping to avoid putting pressure on the area and unconsciously moving the knee.
Is It Okay To Wear A Knee Brace All Day?
During the first few weeks after injury, you may be required to wear a knee brace all day except when bathing or sleeping. However, for the first few nights, your doctor may ask you to wear it while sleeping too, to ensure complete rest and quick healing.
As the injury heals, the pain subsides, your muscles get stronger, and your knee becomes more stable, you may gradually lessen the time that you wear your knee brace.
If you are an athlete, you may need to wear your brace when you start your training after your injury. Once a kneecap gets dislocated, there is a higher chance that it will occur again.
It is therefore necessary to adhere to your therapy sessions and return to function gradually to ensure that you are fully recovered before doing strenuous activities.
Dr Aarti is an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery) from Baroda Medical College (The Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda). Dr. Aarti has also completed her Masters of Medical Science and Technology from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.