The thigh muscles (quadriceps) help
keep the kneecap (patella) stable and in place. Weak quadriceps increase the
patellar tracking disorder.
tendons also help stabilize the patella. If these are too tight or too loose,
you have a greater risk of patellar tracking disorder.
of nonsurgical treatment of patellar tracking problems are to reduce
symptoms, increase quadriceps strength and endurance, and return to normal
function. Exercises for patellar tracking disorder are not complicated and can
be done at home in about 20 minutes a day.
Be sure to stay on your exercise program. You may
not notice much improvement in your symptoms right away, and recovery can take
several months. Problems can come back if you don't keep your strength and
first, following an injury or a flare-up of symptoms of patellar tracking
disorder, knee activity should be reduced. Rest your knee by avoiding activity
that increases your symptoms. Exercises should begin as the symptoms
Steps you can take to help treat patellar tracking
Surgery is usually needed to treat patellar
In most cases, nonsurgical treatment including
rest and quadriceps-strengthening exercises done in combination with taping or
bracing the knee and use of ice and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs) will resolve a patellar tracking disorder.
Continue to Why?
Nonsurgical treatment, especially strength and
flexibility exercises, is usually all that is needed for patellar tracking
disorder. But be sure to seek diagnosis as soon as you notice symptoms,
so that you can begin the right treatment. In general, the longer you have a
patellar tracking disorder, the longer treatment will take.
patellar tracking disorder is left untreated or treated without success, it can
osteoarthritis of the knee.
Ignoring the symptoms of a patellar tracking disorder
can have severe long-term consequences.
If a patellar tracking disorder is left
untreated, it can lead to chondrosis, a softening or loss of the cartilage that
covers the back of the kneecap, which can cause pain during activities that
require bending of the knee. It can also lead to osteoarthritis of the knee, a
progressive breaking down of cartilage that is a major cause of disability in
Continue to How?
Correct diagnosis is of great importance in designing an exercise or
rehabilitation program. The treatment you receive and the exercise program you
use to rehabilitate your knee should be developed specifically for your
condition. Some doctors will recommend using a brace or a taping technique to
keep your kneecap in proper alignment, in addition to an exercise program. Be
sure to closely follow the instructions from your doctor or physical
At first, following an injury or a flare-up of symptoms
of patellar tracking disorder, knee activity should be reduced. Overuse and
trauma are common causes of knee pain. And resting your knee will help relieve
pain. Exercises should begin as the symptoms resolve.
or physical therapist should help you decide what exercises to do. He or she
will probably have you start with one or two exercises and add others over
time. Your physical therapist may use biofeedback during some exercises to help
you learn to contract certain muscles, especially the inner muscle of your
The following exercises may be the first ones that your doctor or physical therapist recommends.
When your doctor or physical therapist thinks your knee is ready for more intensive exercise, he or she may recommend some of the following:
Note: For straight-leg raise exercises, your physical
therapist may have you add light ankle weights as you become stronger.
Remember to limit the bend of your knee to a 30-degree angle at
first. When your knee is bent past this point, your kneecap will have more
contact with the thighbone, causing more pressure, pain, and possible cartilage
The first phase of strengthening your quadriceps
should involve using weight-lifting equipment and bending your knee through a
After you have adequately rested your knee and
symptoms resolve, the first phase of strengthening your quadriceps focuses on
Stretching your hip can help ease a patellar tracking
If you have tightness in structures such as
your quadriceps, iliotibial band, or hamstrings, you can develop a patellar
tracking disorder. All these muscles act on both your hip and your knee, so
stretching around your hip can help loosen them and help ease patellar tracking
Continue to Where?
For more information about exercises to treat patellar
tracking disorder, talk to:
Return to topic:
Patellar Tracking Disorder
Mercier LR (2008). The knee. In Practical Orthopedics, 6th ed, pp. 215–251. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.
January 9, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& Patrick J. McMahon, MD - Orthopedic Surgery
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