Chondromalacia Patella

Often called runner's knee, this painful overuse condition may lead to knee osteoarthritis.

Chondromalacia patella is the breakdown of cartilage on the underside of the kneecap (patella). When the kneecap rubs against the thigh bone, it hurts and swells. It is common among runners and other athletes and has been given the nickname “runner’s knee.”

It is most frequently seen in teenagers, young adults, women and athletes that engage in sports that put a lot of stress on the knee. Those who are overweight are also at greater risk.

Runner's knee is often caused by overuse. It may be the result of trauma to the kneecap, such as a fracture or dislocation. But it may also occur if the patella is out of alignment or if muscles that support the knee are weak or tight. Flat feet may also contribute to chondromalacia patella.
Runner's knee causes pain and tenderness in the front or side of the knee. Swelling or a grinding feeling in the knee are common. The main symptom is knee pain that worsens:
•    After being seated for a long time.
•    When getting out of a chair.
•    When going up and down stairs.
•    When kneeling or squatting.

Chondromalacia patella describes early changes in the cartilage on the underside of the patella. If not effectively treated, these early changes may eventually lead to osteoarthritis in the knee joint where the kneecap and femur meet.
To diagnose runner's knee, your doctor will perform a physical exam and discuss your medical history and symptoms. If the diagnosis isn’t clear from a simple exam, or if symptoms don’t improve with treatment, other tests may be ordered:

•    X-rays to look for arthritis or trauma
•    Blood tests to measure inflammation
•    MRI for more detailed images of the knee
The doctor may recommend the following:
•    Take over-the-counter or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
•    Use a knee brace, sleeve, or wrap to support the knee and help align the patella.
•    See a physical therapist for exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee and to stretch tight muscles that pull the kneecap out of alignment.
•    Consider surgery to re-align the kneecap, if necessary.

Learn more about medications for runner's knee at the arthritis drug guide.
What you do at home will largely help to resolve runner’s knee. Take the following steps to ease your pain and prevent the development of osteoarthritis:
•    Ice the knee a few times per day for several days.
•    Do prescribed strengthening and stretching exercises.
•    Maintain a healthy weight.
•    Balance rest and activity.
•    Learn how to tape your knee to align the patella and ease pain.

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