What is Chondromalacia Patellae?
Chondromalacia patellae is chronic softening and degeneration of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap (patella). In chondromalacia patellae, problems begin when the kneecap does not move properly because the kneecap is not aligned correctly, the muscles on the front and back of the thigh are tight or weak, overuse (e.g., lots of running, jumping, skiing), or flat feet. In older adults, chondromalacia patellae can be a sign of arthritis of the kneecap. Chondromalacia patellae can also be the result of a fall or being hit from the front, which can lead to small tears or irregularities in the cartilage.
Chondromalacia patellae is most often seen in young athletes who have no other injuries. Females are more likely to experience this knee pain problem because they have a greater Q angle, which is the angle between the quadriceps and the patella tendon. Chondromalacia patellae also occurs more often in individuals who have a history of knee fractures, knee dislocations, and other knee trauma. It is often a result of runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome), although each condition can occur alone.
Symptoms of Chondromalacia Patellae
Symptoms of chondromalacia patellae include tenderness of the knee, grinding or grating feeling when flexing the knee, knee pain that gets worse when climbing stairs or getting out of a chair, and knee pain in the front of the knee that occurs when getting up after sitting for a long time.
Treatment of Chondromalacia Patellae
Immediate treatment steps include resting the knee and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve inflammation and pain. A doctor or physical therapist can show you exercises to strengthen your quadriceps and stretch your hamstrings, which will help hold the kneecap in the correct position. Wearing special shoe inserts or orthotics can help people who have flat feet or who pronate, and a knee support can help prevent symptoms.
If the pain does not improve and signs of arthritis develop around the kneecap, arthroscopic surgery may be an option to remove the damaged kneecap cartilage.