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Some patients may not require surgical treatment for their patella dislocation. Patients who have subluxed (partial dislocation) their patella and patients who have only had 1 full patella dislocation may be treated without surgery.

The first step in conservative (non-surgical) treatment to provide pain relief the knee with a combination of anti-inflammatory medications, frequent application of ice, and resting the knee from aggravating activities. Temporary activity modification is critical to allow the knee to strengthen in a pain-free state.  This most often means limiting participation in high impact sports (jumping, cutting, pivoting) and high-intensity workouts, squats, and lunges. If the patient has flat feet, orthotics might be indicated. In some cases, an intraarticular injection is utilized to decrease inflammation in the knee so that the patient can tolerate a stretching and strengthening program through physical therapy.

Physical therapy is critical to loosen any tight tissues and to improve functional strength throughout the leg and hip. Bracing may also be useful during physical therapy and later in sports or activities to minimize discomfort and allow patients to participate in more physical activities and exercise.  In some cases, if physical therapy doesn’t produce the expected improvement, an MRI may be performed to detect early cartilage changes.