Definition

What is chondromalacia patella?

Chondromalacia patella is abnormal softening of the cartilage of the underside the kneecap (patella). It is a cause of pain in the front of the knee (anterior knee pain). Chondromalacia patella is one of the most common causes of chronic knee pain. Chondromalacia patella results from degeneration of cartilage due to poor alignment of the kneecap (patella) as it slides over the lower end of the thighbone (femur). This process is sometimes referred to as patellofemoral syndrome.

How common is chondromalacia patella?

This condition is common among young, athletic individuals, but may also occur in older adults who have arthritis of the knee. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of chondromalacia patella?

The common symptoms of chondromalacia patella are:

  • Pain around the knee. The pain is usually located at the front of the knee, around or behind the kneecap (patella). The pain is typically worse when going up or down stairs. It may be brought on by sitting (with the knees bent) for long periods.
  • A grating or grinding feeling or noise when the knee moves (crepitus).
  • Rarely, some fluid swelling (effusion) of the knee joint.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes chondromalacia patella?

Your kneecap normally resides over the front of your knee joint. When you bend your knee, the backside of your kneecap glides over the cartilage of your femur or thigh bone at the knee. Tendons and ligaments attach your kneecap to your shinbone and your thigh muscle to the kneecap. When any of these components fails to move properly, it can cause your kneecap to rub up against your thigh bone. This abnormal rubbing can lead to deterioration in the patella, resulting in chondromalacia patellae or runner’s knee.

Improper kneecap movement may result from:

  • Poor alignment due to a congenital condition
  • Weak hamstrings and quadriceps (the muscles in the back and front of your thighs)
  • Muscle imbalance between the adductors and abductors (the muscles on the outside and inside of your thighs)
  • Repeated stress to your knee joints, such as from running, skiing, or jumping
  • A direct blow or trauma to your kneecap

Risk factors

What increases my risk for chondromalacia patella?

There are many risk factors for chondromalacia patella, such as:

Age. Adolescents and young adults are at high risk for this condition. During growth spurts, the muscles and bones develop rapidly, which may contribute to short-term muscle imbalances.

Sex. Females are more likely than males to develop runner’s knee, as they typically possess less muscle mass than males. This can cause abnormal knee positioning, as well as more lateral (side) pressure on the kneecap.

Flat feet. Flat feet may place more stress on your knee joints than in people who have higher arches in their feet.

Previous injury. A prior injury to the kneecap, such as a dislocation, can increase your risk of developing runner’s knee.

High activity level. If you have a high activity level or engage in frequent exercises that place pressure on your knee joints, this can increase the risk for knee problems.

Arthritis. Runner’s knee can also be a symptom of arthritis, a condition causing inflammation to the joint and tissue. Inflammation can prevent the kneecap from functioning properly.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is chondromalacia patella diagnosed?

Chondromalacia patella is suspected in a person with anterior knee pain, especially in teenage females or young adults. With manual compression of the kneecap while the quadriceps muscle is tightened, there can be pain. This is referred to as the positive “shrug” sign. Generally, there is no associated swelling (knee joint effusion).

X-rays or MRIs may be done to confirm the inflammation on the posterior part of the patella.

How is chondromalacia patella treated?

The goal of treatment is to reduce the pressure on your kneecap and joint. Resting, stabilizing, and icing the joint may be the first line of treatment. The cartilage damage resulting in runner’s knee can often repair itself with rest.

Your doctor may prescribe several weeks of anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, to reduce inflammation around the joint. If swelling, tenderness, and pain persist, the following treatment options may be explored.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy focusing on strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, and abductors can help improve your muscle strength and balance. Muscle balance will help prevent knee misalignment.

Typically recommended are non-weight-bearing exercises, such as swimming or riding a stationary bike. Additionally, isometric exercises that involve tightening and releasing your muscles can help to maintain muscle mass.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage chondromalacia patella?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you prevent chondromalacia patella:

  • Avoid repeated stress to your kneecaps. Wear kneepads if you have to spend time on your knees.
  • Create muscle balance by strengthening your quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors, and adductors.
  • Wear shoe inserts that correct flat feet by increasing your arch. This will decrease the amount of pressure placed on your knees and may realign the kneecap.
  • Finally, excess body weight may stress your knees. Maintaining a healthy body weight can help take pressure off the knees and other joints. You can take steps to lose weight by reducing your sugar and fat intake, eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and exercising for at least 30 minutes day, five times a week.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: November 1, 2017 | Last Modified: November 1, 2017

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