Doctors and providers who treat this condition


Patella (Kneecap) Dislocation or Subluxation, Reduced

Your kneecap (patella) is held in place by ligaments and tendons. The kneecap can slide to the side of the knee joint if it is hit with a strong force. This sliding is called subluxation or dislocation. In a dislocation, the kneecap moves farther away from its normal position.


Sometimes the kneecap will move back in place by itself. Otherwise, a health care provider will have to move it back into place (reduce it) for you. As a result of this injury, the ligaments and tendons around the kneecap are torn or stretched. It will take about 4 to 6 weeks for these tissues to heal. During this time, the knee must be protected to prevent another injury.

Once a patella dislocation or subluxation has occurred, it is more likely to happen again. This is because the tissues around the kneecap have been weakened. Wear a knee brace or padded shield when playing sports that have a high risk for knee injury. These sports include soccer, skateboarding, football, skiing, and snowboarding. These devices help support your knee and lower your risk for further injury. An important part of your treatment will be to begin rehabilitation and strengthening exercises as soon as possible.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • You may be given a knee immobilizer. This will keep you from moving your for the first few weeks. Unless otherwise advised, you may take this device off to bathe and sleep. But wear it when you are out of bed, for the prescribed time. Your health care provider will often have you wear a knee brace (patellar restraining brace) after you are done with the immobilizer.

  • If you were not given a knee immobilizer, you can use an elastic tubular knee brace. This will give support while your knee heals. You can buy this kind of brace at drugstores. Use crutches to help you walk, if they were prescribed.

  • Put an ice pack on the injured area. Do this for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day for pain relief. You can make an ice pack by wrapping a plastic bag of ice cubes in a thin towel. Continue using the ice pack 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days. Then use the ice pack as needed to ease pain and swelling.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your health care provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding.

  • Don’t take part in sports or physical education until your health care provider says it’s OK to do so. Limit impact activities like walking or bending if they cause pain.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your health care provider in the next few days, or as advised.

If X-rays were taken, a radiologist will look at them. You will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

When to seek medical advice

Call your health care provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Knee pain or swelling gets worse

  • You can’t bend your knee because of pain or because the joint locks

  • Redness or warmth over the knee

  • Pus or fluid drains from any scrape on the knee

  • You can’t put weight on the injured leg because of pain

  • It feels like your knee is wobbly and might give out 


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