Your knee is a complex joint, one that allows you to move your legs freely. The knee has ligaments that hold the bones of your thigh and lower leg in place. As a result of some type of injury — usually severe enough to tear the ligaments — your knee can become dislocated.
A dislocated knee occurs when the position of the thigh bone shifts out of alignment with the shin bone at the point of the knee. This most often happens due to an accident or other serious injury. The knee is usually painful, swollen, and unstable for supporting your weight.
At Performance Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, our board-certified orthopedic surgeon, David Dickerson, MD, shares this information about dislocated knees and how to recover.
The symptoms of a dislocated knee
A dislocated knee is a relatively rare injury but is often very serious when it does occur. It usually happens after a car accident, a hard fall, or certain sports injuries.
A dislocated knee causes some or all of the following symptoms:
- Pain, which is likely to be severe
- A popping sound at the time of the injury
- Visible deformity of the knee
- Instability of your knee, feeling like it might give way when you stand
- Limited range of motion
- Inability to do your normal activities
A dislocated knee is different from a dislocated kneecap. With a dislocation, your kneecap (also called a patella) shifts out of place. This injury is much more common than a dislocated knee and is generally less serious.
How to treat a dislocated knee
How we treat a dislocated knee depends on the severity of your particular injury. Some of our options include:
If your injury isn’t too severe, we may try to pop your knee back into place. This can be painful, so we offer you pain relief if needed. After your knee is back in the correct place, you need to wear a splint for a couple of weeks to allow it to heal. Don’t put pressure or weight on your knee during this recovery period.
If your knee injury is severe — especially if you have torn ligaments — you may need surgery. We can also correct other associated effects of the injury, such as damaged nerves or blood vessels.
You may need to wait for up to three weeks to have surgery, so the swelling has time to go down. During this waiting period, you wear a splint and put ice on your knee to reduce the swelling.
Whether you have surgery or not, your recovery requires some similar care. We usually ask our patients to wear knee braces, possibly even different ones. Some braces allow you to bend your knee in order to reduce knee stiffness.
After wearing braces, you go through physical therapy to strengthen your knee and improve your range of motion. Depending on how severe your knee injury was, you may need to go through physical therapy for up to a year.
If you’re an athlete, you may be able to eventually return to your sport, although you may notice that you play at a different level than you did before.
If you have dislocated your knee, call us today at Performance Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Toms River or Shrewsbury, New Jersey.