Chondromalacia is a medical condition that involves inflammation of the underside of the patella and softening of the surrounding cartilage. This cartilage acts as a shock absorber in healthy individuals. Its breakdown (through injury or overuse) can lead to you feeling pain when you move your knee. The underside of the kneecap then comes into direct contact with the thigh bone and this is the cause of the pain and swelling you experience.
The risk factors for chondromalacia include:
Experiencing an injury (e.g. a dislocation or fracture) of the kneecap;
Being a soccer player, cyclist or someone who is physically active can increase the risk of chondromalacia;
Being a teenager or healthy young adult.
Chondromacia is more often observed in females than in males.
People whose kneecaps are abnormally positioned or who have flat feet may also be more at risk for developing chondromalacia.
You will feel the pain of chondromalacia behind and below the patella as well as on both sides of it. You may also feel a “grinding” sensation when you flex your knee. Examples of these situations include doing knee bends, going downstairs or running downhill.
To confirm that you are suffering from chondromalacia, your doctor may perform a physical examination. If he or she is still not certain, he may order blood tests or a diagnostic exam such as an X-Ray. In some cases, your doctor may even request an arthroscopic exam to confirm the diagnosis. This involves inserting a tiny camera into the patient’s knee to examine the cartilage behind the kneecap.
Orthopedic braces such as the ones below may help by supporting the patella. They can reduce the pain of chondromalacia and allow the injured cartilage under the patella to heal.
Is Chondromalacia The Same As Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?
Chondromalacia is similar to patellofemoral pain syndrome. However, one difference is that the latter does not involve deterioration of the cartilage under the patella.