A dislocated patella refers to dislocation of the knee cap toward the outside of the knee due to either a forceful blow to the patella or a twisting of the knee. Dislocated patella is quite common injury in contact sports, wherein it is quite likely for someone to hit the inside of your knee and force the patella to move to the outside of its location. Landing on the knee forcefully is another most frequent cause of a dislocated patella.
Diagnosing a dislocated patella
In many cases, dislocated patella is visible, since the deformity of the kneecap can be easily observed with naked eyes. This is visible when you bend your knee, in which the kneecap is seen toward the outside of the knee. In some other cases, however, this deformity might be less visible. You may not easily spot any deformed kneecap from the outside. In these cases, it is possible as soon after it gets dislocated, the patella returns back to its groove. However, the latter type of knee dislocation usually causes damages to the inner tissues of the knee, which in the outside is visible as knee swelling and pain. Observing these symptoms can help you diagnosing the possibility of having a dislocated patella before reassuring it with an X-ray or MRI examination.
How long it takes for a dislocated patella to heal
A dislocated patella might correct itself after the injury. However, if your dislocated kneecap has not corrected itself by the time you are getting professional help, the doctor will perform a procedure called reduction. This is a procedure to get the dislocated kneecap back into place. If you are suffering from this kind of patella dislocation, you might need to provide six weeks for the healing process, before fully recovered from the injury. More severe cases of patella dislocation may require longer time to heal and even a performed surgery before it is able to be used properly.
Dislocated knee recovery timeline
When you are suffering from a dislocated patella, you are not advised to bring this dislocated kneecap back into its original position. While this may help improve the caused discomfort, trying to bring the dislocation back into its position may cause damages to nearby muscles, tissues, or bones, which instead, cause more severe pain and complications. You are advised to go to the ER immediately, where the doctor will perform certain procedures to improve the dislocation. Afterwards, you are likely to be sent home, although you might need to wear crutches and knee braces.
- Initially, your affected knee will hurt and you might see some swelling and have some problems moving the knee or have your weight well supported. However, the doctor may prescribe some pain killers that help you with the resulted pain and inflammation.
- During the first weeks of recovery, you are advised to wear knee brace to support the affected knee and prevent it from being dislocated again. You might lose some stability during this period, which can be re-gained by doing some exercises and physiotherapies.
- In the 4th or 5th week after the injury, you will notice the pain subsides significantly, there is no more swelling, and the kneecap position is corrected. It is important to see the doctor within this period to make sure the dislocated patella has healed properly and does not lead to another complication.
- When you have gained your stability, you will be told to attend physiotherapy sessions, which is important to strengthen the healing knee. This is important as it will give you back your ability to move the knee better than the previous healing period
- You are going to be able to use your knee properly after 1 to 2 months after the initial injury, and are going to fully recover within 5 to 6 months after the injury, as long as there is no recurrent dislocation.
- Some patellar dislocations might require surgeries to re-align displaced the patella or repair muscles, tissues, or bones that are damages by the injury. Surgeries are performed when conventional healing does not give any progresses. Knee dislocation healed with surgeries might need longer recovery period.