What Treatments Are Available for Patellofemoral Disorders?

Patellofemoral disorders are most often treated following a conservative approach. Physicians recommend resting the knee and using a brace or arch support to reduce pressure on the joint. Regularly icing the knee and overt-the-counter pain medication help alleviate discomfort and swelling.

During this recovery period, individuals should consider modifying their activities to include knee-friendly exercises like cycling or swimming and avoid strenuous activities known to cause pain, such as climbing, squatting, or kneeling. Shoe inserts known as orthotics can help adequately align and stabilize the foot and ankle.

Most patellofemoral disorders respond well to non-surgical treatment. However, surgery may be required to address the underlying issue when the damage is more extensive. Surgery options include arthroscopic and open surgery, depending on the type and extent of the injury. 

  • The arthroscopic method is minimally-invasive, with surgeons inserting a small camera and specialized instruments through tiny incisions to perform the necessary procedure. Damaged articular cartilage is removed from the kneecap through debridement, and misaligned patellas can be readjusted through the lateral release of surrounding tendons.
  • Open surgery requires a wider surgical incision to perform more complex procedures. In tibial tubercle transfer, surgeons detach a protruding piece of bone connected to the patellar tendon moving it closer to the knee's interior, and reattach it to the tibia with screws to realign the kneecap in the trochlear groove.

Patients that undergo arthroscopic surgery can usually return home on the same day as their operation and begin focusing on their recovery. In contrast, patients that underwent open surgery have more extensive post-operative trauma that may require them to spend 1-2 days in clinical recovery before being discharged.