Knee pain can be a slow and frustrating condition to heal. But most people with patella-related knee pain gain relief with a few months of nonsurgical treatment. Generally, the longer you have had a patellar tracking disorder, the longer you can expect to be in treatment.
Unless your knee is swollen, dislocated, giving way, or causing you severe pain, try the measures described in the Home Treatment section for a week or two before deciding whether to see your doctor. With rest from aggravating activity, ice, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), you can expect your pain to decrease. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare but serious disease.
As your pain starts to subside, begin stretching and strengthening exercises to loosen tight connective tissue that can pull the patella off track, and to help stabilize the patella in the femoral groove as you bend and straighten your knee.
Symptoms of patellar tracking disorder can include:
- A dull ache under, around, and/or at the outer edges of the kneecap, sometimes called patellofemoral pain syndrome. This is often made worse by using the stairs (especially going down stairs), sitting for long periods, and squatting.
- A popping, grinding, slipping, or catching of the kneecap as the knee bends or extends. A grinding or popping sensation may develop before painful symptoms start or may not occur at all. If you have kneecap popping or grinding without pain, see the Prevention section of this topic for stretching and strengthening exercises.
- Swelling of the knee, in some cases.
- The knee buckling or "giving way," as though the knee suddenly won't support your weight.