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Understanding Chondromalacia Patella

Understanding Chondromalacia Patella

The patella, or kneecap, is a small, floating bone that provides leverage and shields your knee joint. It has a thicker cartilage lining than any other bone in the human body, but it’s also subject to a high amount of stress. This can lead to chondromalacia patella, or a deterioration of the protective cartilage. While common among athletes, this condition can happen to anyone, causing pain and limiting your mobility. 

At The Institute for Arthroscopy & Sports Medicine in San Francisco, California, Dr. Jeffrey Halbrecht, a skilled San Francisco sports medicine doctor, and his experienced team can correctly diagnose patella issues and provide effective treatment options to reduce pain and restore mobility.  

Understanding patellofemoral pain syndrome

Chondromalacia patella is included under patellofemoral pain syndrome, or PFPS. This is a broad term that refers to pain around the kneecap. The pain is often caused by two things: chondromalacia patella or patellar malalignment.

When you move, your kneecap slides along a groove in your femur. If your patella is misshapen or pushed out of this groove, it can lead to pain. This is known as patellar malalignment.

Chondromalacia patella occurs when the cartilage protecting the kneecap begins to degrade, softening, cracking, and disintegrating. Eventually, the cartilage breaks down completely, leaving your kneecap unprotected. 

Common symptoms of runner’s knee 

Like the name implies, runner’s knee (or jumper’s knee) is common among athletes. Running and jumping put a great amount of stress on the knees, which can eventually lead to PFPS. 

Symptoms of chondromalacia patella include: 

At first, chondromalacia patella might feel like a mild ache under your patella. As the cartilage begins to soften, the nerve endings in your kneecap sense the sudden stress and send pain signals to the brain. 

The “crunching” sound occurs when the cartilage begins to roughen and break off, irritating the kneecap as it moves underneath. This causes increased swelling and inflammation, which leads to increased pain. 

Finding relief through treatment 

Chondromalacia patella will not resolve itself on its own, and it gets worse with time. If left untreated, the cartilage under your kneecap will disintegrate, and your patella will become vulnerable. Getting an evaluation from an expert knee doctor in San Francisco is important.

Dr. Jeffery Halbrecht is experienced in dealing with knee pain, including patellofemoral pain syndrome. He meets with you, studies your condition, identifies if you have chondromalacia patella or patellar malalignment, and puts together a personalized treatment plan.  

Your treatment plan might include: 

If your condition is severe, Dr. Halbrecht might recommend arthroscopic surgery. This will give him a chance to smooth out the patella, removing loose cartilage and realigning the kneecap. 

To learn more about chondromalacia patella and other forms of PFPS, get in touch with the team at IASM. You can schedule a consultation by calling 415-230-3667, or book an appointment online

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