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Patellar Mobilizations  - What is it? Why is it done? 

By Kelly Thornton, PT, DPT - January 4, 2021

Patellar Mobilizations  - What is it? Why is it done? 

If you have recently had surgery, you may have noticed your physical therapist frequently moves your kneecap, or patella, up and down and side to side. Why is this performed you may wonder? Well, if you tense your quadricep muscle on the front of the thigh on your uninvolved side you will see that the patella moves up, or superiorly.  


The quad and the patella have a working relationship for the knee joint to function properly. When the quad fires, the knee extends, and the patella moves superiorly. Inversely, when the knee flexes, the patella moves downward, or inferiorly.  

Immediately following surgery, the ability of the quad to fire decreases due to swelling and atrophy. Sometimes adhesions can form around the patella during this time, so it is important to get the patella moving again. Your physical therapist will often mobilize the patella in different directions. The purpose is to help the quad to fire or to restore range of motion in the knee joint. Your quad can’t fire without a superior movement of the patella. Also, if you have increased superior movement of the patella, you will gain more knee extension. Have you ever noticed feeling more range of motion in the knee following manual therapy? This is one of the reasons why PT works!