Lateral tracking disorder is a condition wherein the patella or the knee cap shifts out laterally from its normal anatomic position when the legs are flexed or extended. The knee cap may go out laterally towards the inner side of the legs while some can have their patella shift towards the outer portion of the leg.

The patella is an important portion of the knee joint. It is held right in front of the knee joint by ligaments in the sides and by tendons on the top and bottom. The knee joint joins the thigh bone, which is the femur and the lower leg bones, which are the tibia and fibula. The patella that is located right in front of the knee joint holds the knee joint in place for that matter.  At the end of the thighbone, there is a groove and the cartilage that lines the underside of the patella helps the kneecap glide along this groove.

When the cartilage is damaged or when the groove is too shallow, the knee cap may shift away from the center of the knee joint. Loose or tight muscles, tendons and ligaments around the knee cap may also lead to the misalignment of the patella.

Causes of Lateral Tracking Patella

As discussed above, lateral tracking patella may be caused by disorders in the cartilage, tendons, ligaments and muscles that surround the knee cap. An overuse injury to the leg may cause the muscles and tendons to be tight or loose making the knee cap lose track. More commonly, damage to the cartilage that holds the knee cap on the underside may also cause the patella to shift sideways. Furthermore, a blow to the inside portion of the knee can knock the patella out of its normal alignment.

Lateral tracking patella and other knee conditions can also be familial. So when a person experiences knee problems in your family, it is better to employ preventive measures to prevent you from developing it as well.

Symptoms of Lateral Tracking Patella

Lateral Tracking Patella may lead to the following symptoms:

  • Knee pain. Patellofemoral pain is a common symptom because as the knee cap glides sideways, it can create friction on the end of the femur causing injury and inflammation. Knee pain is commonly more severe as one climbs up and down the stairs, squat or stand up after sitting for prolonged periods.
  • Grinding feeling on the knees. When you bend or straighten your legs, the sliding of the kneecap can also result in the grinding or popping feeling in the knees as the patella comes in contact with the end of the thigh bone.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Lateral Tracking Patella

The diagnosis of the condition is based on history taking and physical examination. The physician will usually palpate the knees as you move them to determine any movement in the patella. When the diagnosis is made, treatments usually involve rest from activities such as jumping, squatting, climbing, running and kneeling to prevent further lateral displacement of the knee cap. Stretching exercises are also employed to improve the flexibility of the tendons, ligaments and muscles around the knee. Knee pain is also managed through the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Surgery is often not employed unless dislocation develops.

Prevention of lateral tracking patella is still the best remedy in which overexertion and overuse of the knees must be prevented.