Chondromalacia and Runner’s Knee
Chondromalacia, or runner’s 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 chondromalacia worsens, the cartilage breaks down, causing irregularities and roughness on the undersurface of the patella, which leads to irritation and pain underneath the patella, or kneecap. Activities like walking, running and especially squatting, kneeling or jumping will cause increased pain and discomfort.
Causes of Chondromalacia?
Overuse (or doing activities that your knees aren’t conditioned for), is the major cause of chondromalacia, or runner’s 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 runner’s knee. Other factors also contribute, 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.
- The over 40’s; where general wear and tear of the knee joint is occurring due to age and degeneration.
- Teenagers; (especially girls) where rapid growth is causing structural changes to the legs and knees.
- Short-arc extensions are done sitting up or lying down. Use a rolled-up towel to support your thigh while you keep your leg and foot in the air for 5 seconds. Lower your foot as you bend your knee slowly. Repeat 10 times for each leg, twice a day.
- Straight-leg raises are done lying down. Lift your whole lower limb at the hip with the knee extended, and keep it up in the air for 5 seconds. Then lower slowly. Repeat 10 times for each leg, twice a day.
- Quadriceps isometric exercises are done sitting up, with your legs extended in front of you. Tighten your quadriceps muscles by pushing the knees down onto the floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times each leg, twice a day.
- Stationary bicycling on low tension setting improves your exercise tolerance without stressing your knee. Adjust your seat high enough so that your leg is straight on the down stroke. Start with 15 minutes a day and work up to 30 minutes a day.