Damage to the kneecap muscles is frequent occurrence in those individuals who are involved in activities that requires extensive twisting and bending movements of the knee. Knee pain is experienced more by women as compared to men. All knee pains are not arthritis. This could be damage to the kneecap muscles known as Chondromalacia patella. Continue reading to find out more about the condition.
What is Chondromalacia patella?
Chondromalacia = Chondro + Malacia where chondro means cartilage and malacia means softening and Patella is the kneecap and it helps the quadriceps muscles to extend the knee and aid in its mechanical movement. Chondromalacia patella is defined as the softening and weakening of the cartilage of kneecap. It is a very common condition among very individuals who are involved in active sports. Due to acute pressure on knees, the cartilage suffers wear and tear. Over a period of time, the kneecap began to deteriorate. The mild cases of Chondromalacia patella shows softening and discoloration of the knee surface. As the condition progresses, fissures and cracks start to develop in the cartilage exposing the underlying bone. The structural changes could be localized to a particular area or may spread to the entire patella surface.
What causes Chondromalacia patella?
Young athletes, soccer players, cyclists, rowers, tennis players, dancers and runners are the ones who are most often affected by Chondromalacia patella. Largely because their knees are under great continuous stress, these individuals are predisposed to the condition. Apart from this any acute accidental injury like a direct blow, fracture or dislocation of the patella also causes Chondromalacia patella.
Women and young adults, between 15 to 35 years of age, are found to be at higher risk as compared to men and older population. If your daily chores require significant amount of running, umping, stair climbing, squatting, lunging and kneeling, you may be at the risk of getting Chondromalacia patella.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may vary depending on the extent of condition.
- Dull, aching pain that spreads across the front of the knee
- Puffiness or feeling of fullness in the knee
- Popping and cracking sound when one straightens the knee or climb up/down the stairs
- Reduction in knee movements
- Occasional swelling
- Stiffness when sitting for a prolonged periods of time
How is Chondromalacia diagnosed?
Orthopedician are the specialists who handle Chondromalacia patella cases. They carry out a physical examination of the symptomatic knee along with a question-answer session to understand the symptoms. X-ray may be done to analyze the variations within the cartilage surface of the patella. Rarely, CT scan, MRI scan or bone scan may be done to evaluate the condition of the knee
What is the treatment for Chondromalacia patella?
Generally non-surgical treatment is advised for the problem. Pain relief and controlling inflammation are the first-line of treatment. Overall aim is to improve the mobility and flexibility of muscle. Medication, weight management, suitable footwear and physical therapy are recommended to deal with the condition. Avoid activities that aggravate the condition. Follow a specific training regime that involves exercises to strengthen and stretch your muscles. Rest, cold compression and elevating the knee are other ways to reduce the symptoms of Chondromalacia patella. Braces may be used to stabilize the patella. Occasionally, open surgery is done for those who experience severe pain and disability that does not subside even after adopting non-surgical procedures for couple of weeks.