Patellar Instability | Symptoms and Causes

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What are the symptoms of patellar instability?

If your child’s knee is bothersome because it buckles, slips off to the side or catches during movement, it may mean the kneecap is dislocated.

Other symptoms may include:

  • pain in the front of the knee that gets worse with activity
  • pain when sitting down
  • stiffness in the knee
  • creaking sounds
  • swelling

What causes patellar instability?

There are two general ways that kneecap dislocation occurs:

  • The kneecap dislocates during an accident. If your child gets into an accident during sports or another physical activity, the kneecap may slide out of place quickly and painfully. It will usually go back into place on its own immediately after it slides out.
    • After this, there may be a lot of pain and swelling in the front of the knee, whether sitting or standing. When trying to walk, the kneecap may catch or slip and it may be difficult for to his or her support weight.
  • The kneecap dislocates by itself. If your child’s kneecap slides in and out of place on its own, he or she should see a doctor within the first few weeks of experiencing symptoms, and should not play through pain.
    • Whether the kneecap dislocates once in a while or very often, dislocation can damage the kneecap and the end of the thighbone. Sometimes the injury can become even more painful and lead to arthritis later in life.

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