Doctor's Notes on Chondromalacia Patella (Patellofemoral Syndrome)
Chondromalacia patella (patellofemoral syndrome) is the weakening and softening of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap (patella) and is a common cause of knee pain, especially in women. Degeneration of this particular cartilage occurs because of improper alignment of the kneecap as it slides over the bone of the thigh (femur).
Symptoms of chondromalacia patella may include a vague discomfort of the inner knee area, that is aggravated by activity (for example, running, jumping, climbing, or descending stairs) or by prolonged sitting with the knees in a moderately bent position; a vague sense of tightness or fullness in the knee area, particularly if the knee is swollen; and if chronic symptoms are ignored, the associated loss of quadriceps (thigh) muscle strength and bulk may occasionally result in leg weakness.
Chondromalacia Patella (Patellofemoral Syndrome) Symptoms
- Chondromalacia patella symptoms (patellofemoral syndrome) include a vague discomfort of the inner knee area, aggravated by activity (running, jumping, climbing, or descending stairs) or by prolonged sitting with the knees in a moderately bent position.
- Some people with chondromalacia patella may also have a vague sense of tightness or fullness in the knee area, particularly if the knee becomes swollen.
- Occasionally, if chronic symptoms are ignored, the associated loss of quadriceps (thigh) muscle strength and bulk may cause the leg to weaken.
Chondromalacia Patella (Patellofemoral Syndrome) Causes
Chondromalacia patella can occur for unknown reasons, but it usually is caused by improper tracking of the kneecap (patella) as it slides over the bone of the thigh (femur). This misalignment leads to degeneration of the cartilage underneath the kneecap and results in localized knee pain.
The patella (kneecap) is normally pulled over the end of the femur in a straight line by the quadriceps (thigh) muscle. Patients with chondromalacia patella frequently have abnormal patellar tracking toward the outer (lateral) side of the femur. This slightly off-kilter pathway allows the undersurface of the patella to grate along the femur, causing chronic inflammation and pain. Certain individuals are predisposed to develop chondromalacia patella: females, knock-kneed or flat-footed runners, or those with an unusually shaped patellar undersurface.
Take a break so your knee has time to heal. You'll only need 1 or 2 days of rest to ease minor knee pain, but severe injuries may keep you off your feet longer. Talk to your doctor if it doesn't get better after a few days.
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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.