Chondromalacia patella is a common cause of kneecap pain. It is due to an irritation of the undersurface of the kneecap, which is covered with a layer of smooth cartilage. This cartilage normally glides smoothly across the knee during bending of the joint. However, in some people, the patella tends to rub against one side of the knee joint, and the cartilage surface become irritated, and knee pain is the result.
There can be a number of reasons that the kneecap does not move properly and rubs against the lower part of the thigh bone. This may occur because:
Poor alignment of the knee joint
Tightness or weakness of the muscles on the front and back of your thigh
Too much activity that places extra stress on the kneecap (such as skiing, jumping or twisting, running, or playing soccer)
Chondromalacia often affects young, healthy, athletic individuals. Women are more commonly affected, and this is thought to have to do with anatomical differences between men and women, in which women experience increased forces on the patella.
The pattern of cartilage damage seen with chondromalacia is distinct from the degeneration seen in arthritis, and the damage from chondromalacia is thought to be capable of repair, unlike that seen with arthritis.
The pain of chondromalacia patellae, which is often felt at the front or sides of the knee, is typically felt after prolonged sitting. Individuals often report a dull, aching pain that is aggravated by kneeling or squatting, or walking up or down stairs. In addition, you may experience a grinding sensation when you extend your knee and mild swelling can often accompany this knee disorder.
What therapy can do for you
Most individuals receive relief of these symptoms by resting the knee and engaging in a short course of physical therapy. Your therapist will work with you to decrease the inflammation and address the underlying cause of your problem. Weakness, lack of flexibility, malalignment and postural issues can effectively be treated utilizing manual therapy and therapeutic exercise techniques. Instruction in self management strategies such as strengthening and flexibility exercises, along with use of proper footwear can often prevent this issue from becoming a chronic problem.