Knee-related injuries and medical conditions are among the common reasons many people visit their doctors nowadays. Some people may consider knee pain as a minor problem, but it can lead to serious discomfort and acute disability, depending on the severity of the damage. Several knee injuries happen due to chronic overuse, alignment problems, active sports, failure to warm up and stretch before exercise, or even daily household chores that would require extra physical effort. Other knee-related problems can also result from trauma, such as a car accident, a fall or a direct blow to your knee, as well as due to medical conditions such as arthritis, gout or chondromalacia.
Much has been said about arthritis and gout. But what about chondromalacia? Is this a new type of malady? What causes it and who gets affected by it? Chondromalacia is a knee-joint condition that needs serious attention and requires proper treatment.
Chondromalacia of the patella, also called patellofemoral pain, is a term that refers to pain arising between the patella (kneecap) and the underlying thighbone (femur). The softening of the cartilage beneath the kneecap results in small areas of breakdown and pain around the knee. Instead of gliding smoothly over the knee, the patella rubs against the thighbone everytime the knee moves. These changes vary from mild to total erosion of the cartilage.
This condition is usually prevalent among young women, especially those who have a slight misalignment of the kneecap. Teenage girls are usually at high risk because the knee cartilage is prone to excessive and uneven pressure brought upon by the physiological changes that comes with the growth spurts of puberty. Adults over 40 may develop this condition as part of the wear-and-tear process, possibly resulting in arthritis of the kneecap or osteoarthrities of the knee joint. chondromalacia may also be caused by accidents and trauma, or abnormal pressures on the knee-joint, as experienced by athletes.
Pain and swelling caused by chondromalacia of the patella are felt in the front or inside of the knee. The knee pain becomes worse when seated for long periods, such as while getting up from a chair and when climbing stairs. A grating or grinding sensation may be noticed everytime the knee is extended or straightened.
Most of the time, conservative treatments for chondromalacia are exercise programs designed to strengthen the muscles around the knee and to bring back the normal alignment of the knee cap. These exercises must be approved by a physical therapist to selectively build the thigh muscles (the quads) and realign the knee cap.
A great number of patients usually improve with conservative treatment alone and without much further need for other therapy. Only a small number of cases where kneepain persists or worsens would knee joint surgery be required.
While it may not be possible to avoid chondromalacia, certain measures can be taken to reduce the risk of trauma and injuries, as well as abnormal stress on the knee.
Rehabilitation programs focusing on flexibilty and strength training of the muscles that control your kneecaps can greatly help in the prevention of its development in many cases.
Non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs and other arthritis pain relief medications may be prescribed to alleviate suffering from pain and inflammation.