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Chondromalacia patella is caused by an abnormal breakdown of the cartilage that lines the underside of the kneecap. The kneecap bone is known as the patella and therefore the name chondromalacacia. Chondro means cartilage and malacia means softening. In this condition the cartilage under the knee fissures and basically breaks down. It leads to a grinding sensation and pain in your knee. It may also be known as runner’s knee.
This condition is common in adolescents and young adults. It can also occur in older adults who have arthritis of the knee.
This condition can be caused by:
The risk of this condition is higher for:
Chondromalacia patella can cause mild or moderate symptoms. These vary from person to person. Common symptoms include:
Knee pain may worsen when you:
See a doctor if you have knee pain that does not improve within a few days.
To determine the cause of knee pain, your doctor will perform a physical examination. Your knee will be examined for signs of tenderness and swelling. Your doctor will also flex or extend your leg and ask if you feel pain or grinding below the kneecap. The patella may be noticed to move to the side with knee movements.
A physical exam is usually enough to diagnosis this condition. However, your doctor may want to confirm the diagnosis with:
Often, it is simple to treat chondromalacia patella pain. You may just need to:
Exercises that can stress the knee include jumping rope and running. Replace these workouts with:
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to treat this type of knee pain. You will learn specific techniques to strengthen the muscles around the knee. Strong muscles help keep your kneecap aligned. This can reduce pain.
Some people need surgery to resolve their pain. It is generally only used when other options have not been successful. The most common surgery is arthroscopy. This is used to remove pieces of damaged cartilage. In more extreme cases, you might also need surgery to realign your kneecap.
This condition usually improves with:
If surgery becomes necessary, the outlook is good. Most people experience relief from symptoms and can resume normal activities pain-free. However, surgical complications may include:
If you have this type of knee pain, it is important to treat it. If you do not, your pain may get worse. This can make it difficult to perform routine activities, such as:
Chondromalacia patella may be preventable. You should always warm up before participating in physical activities. Warm-ups include light activity or stretches to prepare your muscles and joints.
If you are participating in strenuous knee workouts such as jumping or running, wear a protective brace or tape your knee. Shoes with good shock absorption will also help protect your knees.
Finally, excess body weight may stress your knees. This can trigger chondromalacia patella. It could help to take steps to maintain a healthy body weight. You should:
Written by: Valencia Higuera
Medically reviewed : George Krucik, MD
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