A common knee complaint often seen in the office is knee pain when going up or down steps. This includes walking on any incline or decline that has to be traversed. A very frequent knee condition that contributes to these complaints is called Chondromalacia Patella. This condition may lead to a disruption of daily activities or sport events.
Definition of Chondromalacia Patella
Chondromalacia patella has been defined as an “overuse” injury that causes damage to the cartilage found on the underside of the knee cap or patella. The cartilage is normally very smooth and allows gliding of the knee joint. Knee pain begins when the smooth cartilage becomes disrupted. Chondromalacia patella has also been called “patellofemoral syndrome”. Unlike arthritis in the knee, cartilage involved in chondromalacia may repair itself.
Causes of Chondromalacia Patella
Causes of chondromalacia include the following:
- Trauma – Fracture, dislocation or landing on the knee cap when falling can result in the onset of the condition.
- Repetitive Activity – Jumping, danceline, running sports or contact sports that break down the cartilage.
- Compression and Torsion – Grinding activity such as kneeling on a hard surface or stressing the knee from activities like gardening.
- Female Sex – Women are twice as likely to suffer from this knee condition. The wide pelvis and a “knock kneed” posture contribute to stressing the patellofemoral joint.
- Foot Problems – Poor mechanics of the foot may stress the patellofemoral joint leading to onset of chondromalacia.
- Age – This condition is primarily found in the younger population. Problems with seniors’ knees are primarily related to osteoarthritis.
How is Chondromalacia Patella Treated?
Treatment is designed to reduce the swelling and improve knee mechanics. This treatment includes:
- Rest – Allows the injured area to heal by reducing the repetitive activity that has been causing the complaint. Cross training is advised in a sport that does not stress the knee.
- Ice – Reduces the swelling around the patella.
- Support – Braces and supports are available to reduce stress on the tendons that attach to the lower knee and help to align the patella to allow pain free movement.
- Physical Therapy Modalities – Ultrasound and electrical muscle stimulation help with swelling and muscle relaxation around the knee.
- Manipulation – Knee, ankle and foot biomechanics are restored.
- Orthotics for Foot Pain – Help to maintain good foot and ankle posture while walking.
- Knee Exercises – Specific exercises for chondromalacia patella help build strength to the leg muscles and maintain proper patella alignment.
- Surgery – Rarely needed.
Chondromalacia patella can disrupt routine activities of daily living. A gradual return to sport or activities that contributed to the knee problem is advised. Self-care and personal responsibility are important in the successful resolution of chondromalacia patella.
The doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office have experience in the care and treatment of chondromalacia patella.