(KON-dro-mah-LAY-she-ah), refers to softening of the articular cartilage of the kneecap. This disorder occurs most often in young adults and can be caused by injury, overuse, parts out of alignment, or muscle weakness. Instead of gliding smoothly across the lower end of the thighbone, the kneecap rubs against it, thereby roughening the cartilage underneath the kneecap. The damage may range from a slightly abnormal surface of the cartilage to a surface that has been worn away to the bone.
- Stiffness after sitting or standing for long periods of time
- Dull pain around or under the knee cap
- Pain with climbing stairs
Perform low-impact exercises that strengthen muscles, particularly the inner part of the quadriceps, without injuring joints. Swimming, riding a stationary bicycle, and using a cross-country ski machine are acceptable as long as the knee doesn’t bend more than 90 degrees. A Physical Therapist is quite helpful on giving a good exercise program without irritating the knee further. Electrical stimulation may also be used to strengthen the muscles. Orthotics may help align the lower leg better taking stress off of the kneecap. Avoid crossing legs; try to avoid activities that require repetitive squatting or kneeling.
If these treatments do not improve the condition, arthroscopic surgery may be recommended to smooth the surface of the cartilage and “wash out” the cartilage fragments that cause the joint to catch during bending and straightening. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the angle of the kneecap and relieve friction with the cartilage or to reposition parts that are out of alignment.