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The Best Chondromalacia Treatment Methods

by Patty Weasler, RN August 19, 2020 0 Comments

knee ice brace

There are many types of chondromalacia treatment, including simple home remedies like icing, stretches, and lifestyle changes. If these options aren’t successful then you may need professional treatment from a physical therapist or surgeon. Keep reading to learn more ways to treat chondromalacia.

Self-Care

If you have chondromalacia knee pain then the first place to start for treatment is at home. The knee joint is irritated and inflamed from overuse and the wear and tear of everyday movement, but thankfully self-care measures can be enough to manage the symptoms of chondromalacia patella.

  • Stretches and Exercises

    One of the most important treatments for chondromalacia patella is regular exercise and stretching. Strengthening your thigh muscles like your quadriceps and hamstrings will help protect you from further injury. Stretching prevents tight muscles and knots from developing. When you exercise avoid high impact activities that can place stress on your knee joint and try low impact workouts like swimming and biking.

    Check out this article to learn more about chondromalacia exercises.

  • Icing

    Icing is another conservative treatment for chondromalacia. Place an ice pack on your knee before exercise, after, or anytime you experience knee pain. Ice numbs pain by interrupting the pain signal and causes the blood vessels within the area to constrict which reduces swelling. Use an ice pack or submerse your knee in a cold bath. Aim to ice your knee in 20-minute intervals and never sleep with an ice pack on your skin.

  • Support

    Supporting your knee with shoe inserts or tape is a noninvasive way to help manage your symptoms. Support options typically don’t help resolve knee pain but can make it more tolerable until you fully recover.

    Shoe inserts

    Shoe inserts or orthotics can help correct conditions like flat feet or overpronation. When the foot is out of alignment it can affect the joints throughout your lower body, including your knee. If you are uncertain about which type of orthotics you need check out our guide or have a physical therapist or podiatrist evaluate your feet and gait to give you their professional opinion.

    Taping

    Knee injuries like chondromalacia are good candidates for taping. Athletic tape can help correct knee alignment by keeping the kneecap tracking in the right space. Another option is kinesiology tape. This type of tape is less supportive than athletic tape but helps increase body awareness and is worn for multiple days at a time.

    Footwear

    The right footwear will make a huge difference in the support of your feet. If you are a runner, go to a specialty running store to get fitted for the correct shoes. Avoid wearing shoes that have little or no arch support like flip flops and replace worn shoes regularly. The health and alignment of your feet have a real impact on your knee alignment and more.

  • Medication

    Pain medications can help you find pain relief while your knee heals. There are multiple options that are over-the-counter and easily accessible. Check them out below.

    Anti-Inflammatory Medications

    Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen reduce pain and swelling. These medications can be found at most pharmacies and are not expensive. While over-the-counter drugs are generally considered safe for most people, talk to your health care provider or pharmacist before you start a new medication to prevent any unintended side effects.

    Pain Cream

    Pain cream can provide temporary localized pain relief to your knee. These creams numb the surface of your skin and allow you to keep moving with less pain until your knee fully heals. There are multiple brands and types on the market, look for one that isn’t greasy and works for joint pain.

  • Lifestyle Changes

    Chondromalacia is caused by the degeneration of cartilage on the undersurface of the kneecap. People who are overweight, athletes, young adults, teenagers, and women are at higher risk. While some of these risk factors you can’t change, there are a couple you can.

    Weight Loss

    One of the first ways to reduce the likelihood of knee injury is to lose weight. If you carry excess weight you are placing added stress and strain on your knees and other joints. Losing weight is hard and takes long term dedication. Work with your doctor to help set reasonable goals and to get support. 

    Activity Modification

    Anyone who exercises often, like runners, is more prone to chondromalacia. If you perform the same physical activity over and over again then you need to change it up to help reduce the strain on your knees. Try biking instead of running and modify your movements to lessen the risk of a knee injury.

Professional Treatment

Sometimes you just can’t treat chondromalacia on your own. When the pain is too severe or has lasted too long it’s time to talk to your doctor or physical therapist. Here is a guide to professional treatment for chondromalacia patellae.

  • Physical Therapy

    A physical therapist is professionally trained to evaluate and treat injuries to the bones and muscles. They will guide you through a thorough evaluation then determine a treatment plan for your specific injury. Often times treatment will consist of stretching and exercise. Treatment is done within the physical therapy office and then you continue the suggested treatment plan in the comfort of your own home.

  • Surgery

    Surgical treatment is typically reserved for the most severe cases of chondromalacia. If other measures haven’t been successful then your doctor will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon who will evaluate you for a surgical procedure. Below we cover the different types of surgery that someone may encounter with chondromalacia.

    Arthroscopic

    Arthroscopy refers to using a tiny camera place within the joint to see exactly how the joint is injured. If the surgeon sees cartilage damage behind the kneecap that is creating a rough surface then the surgeon can use tools to smooth the surface, this is also called shaving the patella. This surgical procedure will reduce the knee pain associated with chondromalacia.

    Lateral Release

    If your chondromalacia is caused by misalignment then your surgeon may recommend a lateral release. During the surgery, the lateral ligaments are cut which allows the kneecap to move back to the center of the femoral groove. This also alleviates any pressure on the articular cartilage behind the kneecap.

    Boney Realignment

    If the kneecap is severely misaligned then a bony realignment might be necessary. During this procedure, the bony attachment of the patellar tendon is moved to a new area on the tibia. This changes how the tendon pulls the kneecap through the femoral groove. This moves the kneecap more to the medial (inside) side of the knee. Ultimately, the kneecap will then track better through the femoral groove.

Prevention

Prevention is really the best medicine. Chondromalacia is a painful condition, it’s best to take the right measures now to avoid it. Overall, to prevent chondromalacia you need to prevent knee injuries and overuse of your knee joints. Here are our best practical tips to make that happen:

  • Warm-up before exercise.
  • Strengthen your thigh muscles.
  • Gradually increase the intensity and frequency of your workouts.
  • Wear shoes that support your feet, use orthotics if necessary.
  • Wear protective knee pads if your work requires you to be on your knees for long periods.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, lose weight if necessary.
  • Use knee supports like braces.

Safe and Effective Chondromalacia Treatment

Chondromalacia is caused by the wearing down of the cartilage behind the kneecap. It can cause pain and other symptoms that hinder your ability to participate in activities. Treatment usually starts with simple remedies like ice, stretching, and supportive devices. When those are not enough then you will need medical intervention from a physical therapist or surgeon to help correct the injury.

Sources:

https://midwestbonejoint.com/knee/chondromalacia-patella/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15607-knee-pain-chondromalacia-patella/management-and-treatment

https://www.physio-pedia.com/Chondromalacia_Patellae

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Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.



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