What is Chondromalacia

Chondromalacia, patella also known as CMP, patellofemoral pain syndrome and runner’s knee is the most common cause of chronic knee pain.Chondromalacia, technically termed chondromalacia patella is the abnormal softening of the cartilage of the under kneecap. It results from deterioration of cartilage due to poor alignment of the kneecap as it slides over the lower end of the thigh bone (femur). This process is therefore sometimes referred to as patellofemoral syndrome.

The symptoms of Chondromalacia patella are generally an unclear discomfort of the inner knee area, increased by activities like running, jumping, climbing or descending stairs or by sitting for long periods of time with knees in a moderately bent position. Some patients may also have an indistinct sense of tightness or fullness in the knee area. Occasionally if the symptoms are ignored the associated loss of thigh muscle strength may cause the leg to give out and also due to reduction of thigh muscle mass, mild swelling of the knee area may occur.

If one suspects of having Chondromalacia, then he should visit a doctor. Diagnosis is usually made by physical exam but the doctor may order tests such as X-rays or MRI to rule out other conditions. The standard treatment for this type of condition is to avoid activities like walking up and down stairs that are difficult on the knees.  Doctors may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen or sometimes acetaminophen for greater comfort. Some muscle strengthening exercises may be suggested by the doctors which are simple and help strengthen the muscles that surrounds the knees and hip muscles. Selective strengthening of the inner portion of the quadriceps muscle will help normalize the tracking of the patella. Cardiovascular conditioning can be maintained by stationary bicycling, pool running or swimming. Generally full squat exercises with weights are avoided. Stretching and strengthening the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups is critical for an effective lasting rehabilitation of Chondromalacia patella.

Generally Chondromalacia will be resolved in about six weeks with proper rest, but if the condition is severe it will take longer to resolve. Doctors may recommend a few surgical techniques if Chondromalacia is not resolving through treatment. Arthroscopy is one of such surgical techniques. In arthroscopy, it clears out bits of the damaged cartilage from the knees, but there are questions about the effectiveness of this technique in the long term. Occasionally the condition is caused by a poorly aligned kneecap and requires surgery to realign the kneecap. This is a more extensive surgical procedure than arthroscopy. Most people don’t require surgery and recover with appropriate rest and adherence to the exercise plan provided by their doctors.

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