What is chondromalacia?

Chondromalacia, also known as chondromalacia patellae and chondromalacia patellae, is degeneration of the surface of the cartilage that makes up the posterior capsule of the patella. Chondromalacia is common among young adults, especially those who play certain sports that put a lot of stress on the knees such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, cycling, tennis, ballet, or running.

What are the symptoms?

This disease produces discomfort or dull pain around or behind the kneecap, to a greater or lesser degree, depending on each case. Occasionally, symptoms can be distinct, confusing and of varying intensity, although commonly those that patients report are: difficult to locate and progressive pain, sensation of knee failure, noises or crunching noises that originate when the cartilage wears away and, finally, small effusions of joint fluid in response to cartilage degradation.

Causes of chondromalacia or why chondromalacia occurs

The causes of chondromalacia are very varied, but it can be generated from an acute injury of the patella or by chronic friction between the patella and the femur joint when moving the knee. Often the causes of this type of pain are: knees in valgus, turned inwards; the practice of sports intermittently, overweight, sedentary lifestyle, lack of extensor muscles, successive low, medium or high intensity trauma, a single direct and very powerful impact, diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or certain infections.

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Can it be prevented?

The measures to follow to prevent this pathology are the use of specific knee pads for this pathology, intense exercise that respects the knee and doing it very slowly, with a very low amplitude (between 10 and 15 degrees of movement) and maintaining the contraction longer. In addition to practicing aerobic exercise such as the use of elliptical bike that reduces the impact, although it may not be recommended in cases where chondromalacia is already present.

What does the treatment consist of?

The choice of treatment will depend on the cause of the injury. Among the methods to solve them there are physiotherapy by means of massages, ultrasounds, dry needling, radiofrequency or quadriceps strengthening. There is also pharmacological treatment, although no medication will cause the cartilage to regenerate, but it will help to slow down the wear and tear. Growth factors, using platelet-rich plasma, also offer great results. The practice of gentle physical exercise such as swimming, pilates or muscle stretching of both hamstrings and quadriceps are highly recommended. Another option is hyaluronic acid injections.