Chondromalacia Patella actually has two names. It also goes by patellofemoral syndrome. Chondromalacia Patella is an inflammation of the cartilage under the kneecap that acts as a natural shock absorber to the knee. Overuse of this area can damage the cartilage.
This is the most common knee pain that increases when you walk up and down the stairs. It might hurt to kneel or squat also. As the smooth cartilage rubs against the groove in the bottom of your femur you feel a dull pain in the front of your knee. You also might notice a grating or grinding sensation when you extend your knee.
Causes of chondromalacia patella can be from overuse or injury. Sometimes an unusual alignment of the kneecap is responsible. It can also be related to arthritis in the knee joint and weak thigh muscles or flat feet. This is a common complaint in runners or others who do exercises which involve the lower legs. Chondromalacia Patella is more common in women than men.
The predisposition to women may be a result of the difference in the alignment of the kneecap. If you are sitting in a chair and extend your leg in front of you the angle at which your lower leg is in relationship to your upper leg is called the Q angle. This angle places the kneecap in a position that predisposes it to increased stress and strain during weight bearing.
If the pain isn’t disabling you can treat with rest and cold packs. It also helps to elevate your knee. Try nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen. If this doesn’t improve in the first two or three days consult your doctor.
There are several reasons to see your doctor immediately. For instance if your knee hurts and doesn’t function after an injury or if it hurts even if it you aren’t standing. Pain after a popping sound or snapping sensation is indicative of another type of injury that should be evaluated immediately. If your knee locks and is visibly out of place, feels loose or unstable or is swollen and associated with fever, chills or redness around the joint you should see the doctor.
Diagnosis is based on symptoms and an exam. Tell the doctor about your typical activities, recent changes, injuries and if you detect tenderness or feel a grinding sensation below the kneecap when you extend the leg. The doctor may recommend x-rays or arthroscopy to diagnose and in the case of arthroscopy – treatment.
Chondromalacia Patella pain can result in weakness of the thigh because you are favoring that leg. Knee pain can be prevented with warm up exercises before working out; losing excess pounds; stretching; increasing intensity of workouts gradually; and wearing smart shoes.
Once the therapies have worked and you no longer have pain from Chondromalacia Patella you should also take some preventative measures to ensure you no longer are plagued with this condition. One preventative exercise that is easily done at home is a leg raise. The basic idea is to strengthen the quadriceps muscle, the thigh muscle, so that the kneecap tracks well over the joint.
You can do this simple exercise sitting in a chair and without weights. It is similar to the exercise machine at the gym. Sitting in a chair with your hips at 90 degrees you extend one leg at a time and contract your thigh muscles, holding for 10-20 seconds. Do one set of 5 each day gradually working up to 2 sets of 10 for each leg.
NEVER do this exercise while standing since while contracting the thigh muscle you will be pulling the kneecap out of alignment over the leg causing even more damage to the leg.
Chondromalacia Patella usually improves with therapies and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. With preventative measures you should be back to normal activities in no time!