Patellar Tracking Disorder, Part 1: What Is a Patellar Tracking Disorder?

by | Apr 4, 2022 | General Chiropractic | 0 comments

During a football game, Roger took a tough hit to his knee on his way to the endzone. Later, he felt a popping sensation in his knee as he walked. Joan’s job often requires repetitive twisting motions as she moves heavy objects. She’s been on the job for years with seemingly no problem. But today, she felt her knee giving out, as it could no longer hold her up. 

These two people may be experiencing patellar tracking disorder symptoms. With patella tracking disorder, the patella (the kneecap) is forced out of its normal position. It usually moves away from the body (i.e., to the left in the left leg or to the right in the right leg).

In this article, Part 1, we will discuss patellar tracking disorder, how it occurs, how it’s diagnosed, and how to be prevented. Later in Part 2, we will discuss treating patellar tracking disorder at Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center.

The Knee before Patellar Tracking Disorder

On a typical day, you may sit down, stand up, walk and run from place to place, kneel to reach that box under the bed, climb a ladder, lift things from the ground, jump over a puddle, get your dance moves on, and so much more. You put your knees to work. 

The largest joint in the body, the knee, is the point where the body’s two longest bones—the femur and tibia (thigh and lower leg bones, respectively)—and the patella all connect. The patella sits atop a layer of cartilage and slides along a groove at the end of the femur as you move your leg. Strong tendons and ligaments hold the knee firmly in place while allowing a wide range of motion from 0 degrees when stretched out straight to about 150 degrees when you touch your calf to the back of your thigh. 

Your knees are subject to a great deal of force. First, there’s your body weight. If you’re standing still, your knees support about 80% of your weight. That jumps to 150% when you’re walking because of the extra force that motion produces. Add the weight of anything you’re carrying while moving around— that’s quite a bit for your knees. 

Knees are made to handle a lot of force. But if weighty forces are applied over a long time, you’re engaged in high-risk activity, or you’re getting older, your knees can become more susceptible to injury.

Patellar Tracking Disorder

What Is Patellar Tracking Disorder?

Patellar tracking disorder is a condition in which the patella is pushed out of place, away from that groove in the femur, when you move your leg. The disorder encompasses several types of movement problems during flexion and knee extension

What Causes Patellar Tracking Disorder?

Repeated high stress on the knee can eventually lead to patellar tracking disorder. It can also be brought about by weak leg muscles or too much tightness or looseness in the tendons and ligaments that typically hold the knee in place. For example, a knee injury from a football tackle can push the knee out of alignment. 

Aging and excess body weight also contribute to the condition. With the former, muscles naturally weaken over time. With the latter, the additional weight puts more force on the knees. Also, repetitive twisting movements can create a problem.

What Are the Patellar Tracking Disorder Symptoms?

Patellar tracking disorder brings with it a wide array of possible symptoms. When you flex your knee, jumping, walking, or squatting, you may experience pain in the front of your knee. You may have a sensation of grinding, popping, or motion in your patella. It may feel like your knee is buckling and can’t support you anymore. It is especially painful if the knee completely dislocates.

Diagnosing Patellar Tracking Disorder

Numerous patellar tracking disorder symptoms are shared by other knee conditions. This makes diagnosis more difficult. Your doctor will examine your knee by moving it into different positions, observing you as you move your knee, and possibly using X-rays or MRI. 

One way to test for patellar tracking disorder is a patellar grind test, in which the doctor applies pressure as you move your knee to evaluate the pain response. The procedure is repeated with increasing pressure.

Preventing Patellar Tracking Disorder

The best way to prevent patellar tracking disorder is to lower your risks. Wherever possible, avoid situations that put excessive stress on your knees. However, this isn’t practical for some people, such as athletes in high-impact sports and people with physically demanding jobs. 

The next best thing is to get in and stay in great shape. Exercises focused on strengthening the knees and leg muscles are ideal for avoiding patellar tracking disorder. 

Another significant means of prevention is maintaining a healthy weight. Remember the earlier example? Your knees support about 80% of your weight when standing still and 150% when you’re walking. The more weight you carry, the more force and strain is placed on your knees every day. 

We’re Looking Forward to Helping You at Our Chiropractic Offices in NJ!

At Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center, we have several options for treating patellar tracking disorder. We use a variety of soft tissue techniques to relieve pain and restore a full range of motion. Our rehabilitation procedures relieve the symptoms and stabilize the region. We also use modalities such as Radiopulse Frequency (Shock Wave Therapy) and Cold Laser.

In Part 2 of this series, we will discuss our various treatments for patellar tracking disorder, including FAKTR, Graston Technique, Active Release, and taping. As always, our goal for every patient is to thoroughly examine the problem, develop and execute an effective, customized treatment plan for the patient’s specific situation, and promote a quick and complete recovery. 

Meanwhile, if you find yourself with symptoms of patellar tracking disorder, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and check out our blog. We can get you—and your knee—back on track!

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