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What Is Chondromalacia Patella?

What Is Chondromalacia Patella?
What Is Chondromalacia Patella?

Chondromalacia Patella The Basics

Chondromalacia patella also referred to as patellofemoral syndrome or runners knee is the most common cause of chronic knee pain. With chondromalacia patella pain is typically aggravated by activity or prolonged sitting with bent knees such as sitting at the movies or a long haul flight.
It is suggested that abnormal “tracking” of the kneecap (patella) causes the patella to grate over the groove in the lower end of the thighbone (femur), causing pain and inflammation. Physiotherapy directed treatment of chondromalacia patella focuses at improving the alignment of the patella in the groove it rides in.

What Is Chondromalacia Patella?

Chondromalacia patella also referred to as patellofemoral syndrome a common cause of anterior knee pain refers to the abnormal softening of the cartilage of the underside the kneecap. The condition causes pain in the front of the knee. It results from degeneration of the cartilage due to poor alignment of the kneecap in its groove.
Also known as “runner’s knee,” is a condition common among young, athletic individuals, but may also occur in older adults who have arthritis of the knee.
Chondromalacia is often seen as an overuse injury in sports, and sometimes taking a few days off from training can produce good results without any other intervention however frequently physiotherapy looking at correcting improper knee alignment is necessary when simply resting doesn’t provide relief.

What Causes Chondromalacia Patella?

Your kneecap resides over the joint of your knee and when you bend and straighten your knee, the movement causes the backside of your kneecap to glide over the bones of the knee (specifically the femur). Tendons and ligaments are tasked with the role of attaching your kneecap to your shinbone and your thigh muscle and when any of these components fails to move properly, this can cause the kneecap to rub up against the bone leading to deterioration in the patella cartilage.
In the ideal situation your kneecap is pulled over the end of the femur in a straight line by your thigh muscles. However in chondromalacia patella patients frequently have abnormal “tracking” of the kneecap typically with tracking laterally toward the outer side of the femur. This means the under surface of the patella grates along the femur, causing inflammation and anterior knee pain.

Abnormal Tracking May Result From:

  • Poor alignment due to a congenital condition.
  • Weak thigh muscles specifically the quadriceps (the muscles at front of your thighs) as well as other strength and mobility imbalances in the hip and thigh.
  • Repeated stress to your knee joints, such as from running or jumping as well a a direct trauma to the knee such as a fall or hit to the kneecap.

Signs And Symptoms Of Chondromalacia Patella?

Chondromalacia patella is generally associated with vague discomfort at the front of the knee (anterior knee pain) with the pain being aggravated by activity such as running, jumping, as well as simple daily activities like climbing up or down stairs. As previously mentioned prolonged sitting with the knee moderately bent also causes pain with sufferers of chondromalacia patella.
The individual may also feel sensations of grinding or cracking when bending or extending your knee and on assessment they may present with an obvious reduction in quadriceps muscle mass and or mild swelling of the knee however generally, there is no associated swelling.

Who Gets Chondromalacia Patella?

Certain individuals are predisposed to developing chondromalacia patella. Anterior knee pain from chondromalacia patella is especially common in teenage girls or young adults. During growth spurts, the muscles and bones develop rapidly, which may contribute to short-term muscle imbalances.
Females are more likely than males to develop runner’s knee and being knock-kneed or flat-footed runners are also typically noted biomechanical variations among those who suffer with this condition.
Previous injury to the kneecap, such as a dislocation, can increase your risk of developing runner’s knee as can a high activity level where someone engages in frequent exercises that place pressure on the knee joints.
As well as this, having an unusually shaped patella is considered to be a predisposing factor which is why X rays can also be useful to look at the morphology of the kneecap and the groove the patella tracks and glides in when bending and straightening the knee.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance regarding What Is Chondromalacia Patella? should consult his or her general practitioner or physiotherapist or suitably skilled practitioner.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.


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