What is Chondromalacia Patellae?
Chondromalacia patella is a disease characterized by degeneration of the cartilage supporting the kneecap, which is also known as the patella. It is the condition of damage and softening of the cartilage at the back of the patella.
The condition results in severe pain in the front knee, accompanied by swelling. You can also experience grinding and clicking sounds while moving the knee.
It is usually seen in young, athletic people who are more involved in physical activity. Such people tend to exert their muscles more. It is also common in women.
What are the Causes of Chondromalacia Patellae?
Chondromalacia patella occurs when the kneecap erodes due to continuous rubbing against the joints or bones when it is supposed to glide over them. The kneecap glides over the bones in normal circumstances.
In Chondromalacia patellae, the cartilage behind the patella, which is responsible for the gliding, is damaged due to wear and tear. It softens and degenerates. This causes friction between the patella and the joints, resulting in inflammation and severe pain. Common causes of Chondromalacia patellae are mentioned below.
- Imbalance of muscles also causes Chondromalacia patellae. The stiffness of the muscles outside the kneecap, and weakening or softening of the muscles inside the kneecap also results in Chondromalacia patellae.
- Improper alignment of the patella or kneecap. Some people are born with patellas that are either high or low with respect to the joint. This incorrect positioning of the patella eventually results in Chondromalacia patellae.
- The precondition of flat feet makes the cartilage behind the patella more susceptible to damage due to wear and tear.
- Extreme and forceful overuse of muscles of the leg also causes the cartilage to tear and cause inflammatory Chondromalacia patellae.
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Signs and Symptoms of Chondromalacia Patellae
The common symptoms of Chondromalacia Patellae are
- Pain in the front knee
- Difficulty in climbing up and down the stairs
- Pain while standing up after sitting for long time
- Grinding and cracking sounds while moving the legs
- Painful swelling in the area around the kneecap
Diagnosis of Chondromalacia Patellae
Doctors can diagnose Chondromalacia Patellae from the symptoms. They also conduct certain tests. Normal X-rays usually do not detect the problem in this case. However, X-rays with skyline view can be used to see the cartilage degeneration behind the kneecap. This X-ray is taken from the side, instead of taking a view from the front.
Treatment of Chondromalacia Patellae
The first step in the treatment of Chondromalacia Patellae involves detailed examination of the damaged area by a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist will study your leg muscles and identify the cause of Chondromalacia Patellae.
*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.
Other elements of the treatment involve –
- Stretching, strengthening, and kneecap specific exercises will help overcome muscle imbalance and smoothen the movements of the kneecap.
- Wearing a knee brace strap under the knee will reduce the pressure at the joint
- Doctors will also advise protection and rest the damaged area. Apply regular ice in the area around the patella, and compress and elevate. This will control the pain as well as the swelling.
- Anti inflammatory medicines like Vital 3 help in reducing the pain and inflammation.
- Shoe insoles are used to cure flat foot and hence reduce the pressure at the joints.
- Surgery is usually the last option which is adopted only when medication and physiotherapy does not work. This surgery is arthroscopic and it tries to set the patella right and remove damaged cartilage bits.
Risks Involved in the Treatment of Chondromalacia Patellae
While curing Chondromalacia Patellae, certain risk factors like the age and sex of the patient also need to be considered. Sportsmen and athletes are also more prone to this disorder.
The cause of Chondromalacia Patellea needs to be diagnosed carefully before administering any treatment.
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