Patella Chondromalacia, or runners knee, is a condition where the articular cartilage, located underneath the kneecap (patella), starts to soften and break down.
This cartilage is usually smooth and allows the knee joint to move freely as the knee bends. However, as patella chondromalacia worsens, the cartilage breaks down, causing irregularities and roughness on the undersurface of the patella, which leads to irritation and kneecap pain./p>
If you suffer from patella chondromalacia or are seeking to prevent its occurrence it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that's just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
|Chondromalacia and runners knee image
from Principles of Anatomy and Physiology.
Anatomy of the Knee
The picture to the right is a front-on view of the bones, tendons and ligaments that make up the knee joint. In the very center of the picture is the patella, or kneecap. The blue structure that runs downward from the patella to the tibia (shinbone) is the patella ligament, and located underneath the patella is the articular cartilage.
What causes Chondromalacia?
Overuse (or doing activities that your knees aren't conditioned for), is the major cause of chondromalacia, or runners knee. Activities that involve a lot of running, jumping or rapid change of direction are particularly stressful to the knee joint. Participants of basketball, volleyball, skiing, soccer, tennis and other running related sports are particularly vulnerable to runners knee.
Other factors also contribute to chondromalacia, including: being overweight; pronation or inefficient foot mechanics; and insufficient warm up before exercise.
Although chondromalacia can occur to anyone at any time, there are two distinct age groups that are most susceptible.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Chondromalacia?
The major symptom of patella chondromalacia is pain in the area around the kneecap. Activities like walking, running and especially squatting, kneeling or jumping will cause increased pain and discomfort.
The initial treatment for chondromalacia is the same as any other soft tissue injury. This involves the application of R.I.C.E.R. (R) rest, (I) ice, (C) compression, (E) elevation and obtaining a (R) referral for appropriate medical treatment. The following two points are of most importance.
How do you apply ice? Crushed ice in a plastic bag is usually best. However, blocks of ice, commercial cold packs and bags of frozen peas will all do fine. Even cold water from a tap is better than nothing at all.
When using ice, be careful not to apply it directly to the skin. This can cause "ice burns" and further skin damage. Wrapping the ice in a damp towel generally provides the best protection for the skin.
How long, how often? This is the point where few people agree. Let me give you some figures to use, as a rough guide, and then I will give you some advice from personal experience. The most common recommendation is to apply ice for 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 48 to 72 hours.
These figures are a good starting point, but remember they are only a guide. You must take into account that some people are more sensitive to cold than others are. Also, be aware that children and elderly people have a lower tolerance to ice and cold. Finally, people with circulatory problems are also more sensitive to ice. Remember to keep these things in mind when treating yourself or someone else with ice.
Personally, I recommend that people use their own judgement when applying ice to themselves. For some people, 20 minutes is too much. For others, especially well conditioned athletes, they can leave ice on for up to an hour at a time. The individual should make the decision as to how long the ice should stay on.
My personal recommendation is that people should apply ice for as long as it is comfortable. Obviously, there will be a slight discomfort from the cold, but as soon as pain or excessive discomfort is experienced, it is time to remove the ice. It is much better to apply ice for 3 to 5 minutes a couple of time an hour, than not at all.
During the first 24 to 72 hours after an injury, be sure to avoid any form of heat at the injury site. This includes heat lamps, heat creams, spas, Jacuzzi's and saunas. Avoid all movement and massage of the injured area. Also, avoid excessive alcohol. All these things will increase the bleeding, swelling and pain of your injury. Avoid them at all costs.
Although it is important to be able to treat chondromalacia and runners knee, prevention should be your first priority. So what are some of the things you can do to help prevent chondromalacia?
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