Patellar Tracking Disorder (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Exams and Tests
Patellar tracking disorder can be hard to distinguish from other knee problems. If your knee still has pain after 2 weeks of stretching, strengthening, and rest from aggravating activity, your doctor will:
Tests that are done as needed
If your diagnosis is unclear, you may have an X-ray, which is the standard test for assessing the position and condition of the knee bones. If your doctor needs more information, you may have a CT scan to look at the joint in more detail or an MRI to evaluate cartilage or ligament damage.
Knee pain can be a slow and frustrating condition to heal. But most people with patella-related knee pain gain relief with a few months of nonsurgical treatment. In general, the longer you have had a patellar tracking disorder, the longer you can expect to be in treatment.
Unless your knee is swollen, dislocated, giving way, or causing you severe pain, try the measures described in Home Treatment for a week or two before deciding whether to see your doctor. With rest from aggravating activity, ice, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), you can expect your pain to decrease. After 2 or 3 days of using ice, you can try heat to see if it helps.
As your pain starts to subside, begin stretching and strengthening exercises. These will loosen tight connective tissue that can pull the patella off track. Also, the exercises will help stabilize the patella in the femoral groove as you bend and straighten your knee.
If home treatment isn't enough to reduce your knee problems, or if your knee is swollen, dislocated, giving way, or causing you severe pain, see your doctor for evaluation. Knee problems are often hard to distinguish from one another. So a thorough exam and accurate diagnosis are essential for you to get proper treatment.
After confirming that you have a patellar problem, your doctor will review your home treatment measures and make further recommendations. You may be advised to have physical therapy, use shoe inserts (orthotics), stabilize your knee with tape or a soft brace, or lose excess weight.
Surgery is not commonly done for patellar tracking disorders. But surgery is recommended in cases of repeated patellar dislocation, displaced or damaged cartilage following a dislocation, loose bodies (such as small pieces of bone or cartilage) in the knee following a dislocation, repeated subluxations caused by a structural deformity, or failed nonsurgical therapy.
What to think about
Nonsurgical treatment—including stretching and strengthening exercises, temporary use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and sometimes bracing or orthotics—usually eases the pain of a patellar tracking disorder and makes surgery unnecessary. Keeping your knee strong and flexible will help to prevent further problems. Staying at a healthy weight to decrease stress around your knees may also help. For more information, see the topic Weight Management.
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