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During the initial stages of chondromalacia, treatment focuses on increasing the strength of the muscles surrounding the knee joint. This helps to reduce the pressure on the patella and may prevent more damage to the cartilage. Stretching is also used to increase flexibility of important muscles such as the hamstrings. If, however, this treatment doesn’t work then sometimes surgery will be required to clean up any damaged cartilage that may cause pain. Resting the knee is also an important part of chondromalacia treatment.
Chondromalacia treatment generally begins by focusing on reducing the inflammation of the knee joint. This can be achieved through the use of ice, non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and resting from any activity that causes pain. Sometimes chondromalacia is known as runner’s knee, as it is often caused by running on hard surfaces. During the inflammation period any activity that causes pain should be avoided. Many athletes cross train during this period by performing low impact activities, such as swimming.
Physical therapy is often the most important part of chondromalacia treatment. While in therapy, the hamstring and quadriceps muscle groups undergo a series of strengthening and flexibility exercises to restore balance to the muscles surrounding the knee. Exercises such as straight leg lifts and isometric contractions of the quadriceps are commonly used.
It’s important that the patient participates fully in chondromalacia treatment. The conservative treatment methods will not usually be successful unless performed on a daily basis over a period of months. This can be a frustrating experience for a person with a knee problem, especially if he or she is used to intensive exercise, but the problem is not likely to go away on its own. Without a dedicated strengthening and stretching program the pain will usually get worse.
In some cases conservative chondromalacia treatment may not be effective. In this situation, surgery may be required in order fix the problem. A knee arthroscopy is often performed to look inside the knee to judge where the pain is coming from and what can be done about it. Sometimes chondromalacia is caused by tight tissue structures on the outside of the knee, and in this case a lateral released operation may be required.
Surgery is usually used as a last resort for chondromalacia treatment. This is because there is often success with more conservative treatments. Also, surgery is regularly unsuccessful and can cause additional problems; if it can be avoided, a surgeon will usually prefer to do so.
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