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Patella tracking refers to the kneecap being incorrectly positioned in the knee joint during activity – a common problem often ignored by runners, says physiotherapist Kate Senini.
The muscles around the knee joint attach to the patella and control its position. Straight alignment of the knee joint itself crucial to the patella tracking correctly.
When it’s not tracking correctly, it rubs against the knee joint, leading to irritation of the back of the patella and inflammation.
A low-grade, dull ache and stiffness around the front of the knee will be encountered, and can become a sharp pain if ignored. When the condition becomes severe there is more significant inflammation. This causes pain in regular daily activity and may also be accompanied by swelling around the knee.
In the case of inflammation, running should be ceased for a short period of time, and specific rehabilitation should commence. During this time taping, ice and anti-inflammatory medication can be utilised as a short term patellar tracking treatment.
In cases of lower-level inflammation, small amounts of running may be OK based on symptoms, and taping can help with continued, modified training. During this period rehabilitation should be continued to correct the underlying causes of the injury.