Chondromalacia patella is a common condition characterized by softening, weakening, and damage of the cartilage. The condition is most often seen among young athletes and older adults who have arthritis of the knee. It is especially seen in women.
There may be no explicit reason why the cartilage damage occurs. However, it is often associated with improper knee alignment or imbalance in the tightness of the muscles holding it in place. Overuse of the knee in certain sports activities may cause wear and tear of the cartilage. This may cause rubbing or grinding of the kneecap against the bone instead of it smoothly gliding over the knee joint.
Chondromalacia patella may also be caused due to injuries such as fractures or dislocations, or may develop as a part of your aging process.
Chondromalacia patella is the most common cause of anterior knee pain. Called patellofemoral pain, it is characterized by the following:
- Pain in front, around, or behind your patella
- Pain that gets worse when climbing up or down the stairs, sitting or standing for long periods, or when pressure is applied on the knee
- Grinding or cracking sensation or noise when you bend your knee
- Swelling in your knee joint
Dr. Fischer will perform a physical examination by applying pressure on different areas of your knee and moving your leg in different positions. Dr. Fischer may recommend imaging tests such as an X-ray, CT, or MRI to obtain more detailed information about the bones and soft tissues of the knee.
The treatment of chondromalacia patella initially involves conservative measures. You may be asked to rest your knee and avoid any activity that will aggravate your symptoms. Dr. Fischer may prescribe anti-inflammatories to relieve pain and reduce swelling. Physical therapy can help to improve muscle strength, decrease stress on the joint and aid in correcting malalignment. Wearing support braces and taping around the knee may help you protect your joint, reduce pain and improve alignment. Application of ice on the knee may be recommended after exercise.
When non-surgical treatment does not relieve pain, Dr. Fischer may recommend surgical treatment. Surgery may involve:
- Arthroscopy: Dr. Fischer inserts a device called an arthroscope (thin tube with a camera and light attached) through a small incision. This helps to clearly view the surgical site while other instruments are inserted to remove fragments of the damaged cartilage.
- Realignment: Dr. Fischer may operate on your knee to realign the position of your patella and release the pressure on the cartilage.