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Chondromalacia patella

Chondromalacia patella (or patellae), also referred to as “runner’s knee” is a condition in which the cartilage cushioning the area under the patella (kneecap) begins to deteriorate and wear out. Due to this, the kneecap may start to rub against the femur (thigh bone) and cause discomfort or pain. This condition is often common among athletes due to increased activity and action involving the knees. The condition can also occur in adults who are suffering from arthritis.

Chondromalacia patella can often occur due to misalignment of the knee or as a result of overuse, which can be seen it treated by a few days of rest. In the case of improper knee alignment, resting will not be enough, and physiotherapy or surgery may be necessary to correct it.

Causes

Chondromalacia patella is most common in teenagers and young adults, usually affecting women more than it does men. It is
not fully known the reason why it occurs, but studies have indicated that when the patella (kneecap) rubs against the
femur (thigh bone) this can damage the cartilage underneath the patella, which is necessary for cushioning and reducing friction between the bones and joints. The main causes for this condition are usually:

Alignment problems with the knee or foot.

There are also certain risk factors, which increase the likelihood of having “runner’s knee” (chondromalacia patella), these include:

Symptoms

Individuals suffering from chondromalacia patella will often record similar symptoms to other conditions in the knee. The common symptoms being:

Diagnosis

A provisional diagnosis of chondromalacia patella is usually made after an examination by a doctor or qualified physiotherapist. It is usually an active diagnosis as it requires further follow-ups, due to lack of access to the cartilage. If the initial signs show no proof of damage to the cartilage then the doctor is likely to view the injury as patellofemoral pain syndrome rather than runner’s knees.

Based on the results of the tests there are provided, different levels of severity can be experienced.

If a diagnosis cannot be gathered from the initial physical examination by the doctor or it is unclear, then further tests may be carried out in certain situations. Tests that may be carried out include:

Treatment

The initial mode of treatment for injuries such as chondromalacia patella after diagnosis is the application of the R.I.C.E principle (Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate). Although applying this in itself will not cure chondromalacia patella, it will help in reducing the discomfort, swelling, or pain associated with the injury. It is essential to understand and correct the initial cause(s) of the injury and the treatment program that is recommended may be a mixture of one of the following:

Prevention

To avoid a repeat of chondromalacia patella or to prevent it from occurring in the first instance, the following steps can be followed to prevent the likelihood:

If you are experiencing knee pain, chondromalacia may be the cause. For more information, call (702) 258-3773 to schedule an appointment at Nevada Orthopedics and we can explore the issues and design a treatment plan for your unique needs.

Ronald Hillock MD
Fellow American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
Diplomat American Board of Orthopedic Surgery
Adult Reconstruction and Orthopedic Oncology

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