One of the most frequent causes of pain in the knees is due to chondromalacia patella, a condition that involves the softening or degeneration of the articular cartilage located behind the kneecap. The pain and inflammation of this condition is usually due to incorrect tracking of the kneecap as it glides across the bottom of the thigh bone. There are a few possible causes for this abnormal tracking: if we examine those with the highest risk of chondromalacia patella, such as young people; women; the knock-kneed and flat-footed; dancers; runners; skiers; and soccer players, we can see why most cases are due to the influence of hormones, misalignment in the hip, knee or foot, congenital defects and excessive wear and tear.
Misalignment can be due to a range of factors. One of them is an imbalance in the muscles of the thigh. The quadriceps muscle usually helps the patella to track smoothly through the femoral groove. However, if this muscle is weakened or there is an imbalance in the thigh muscles, it can cause the patella to track to one side or the other (more commonly toward the outside of the leg), causing the articular cartilage to rub against the femur. Misalignment can also be caused by overly weak hip abductor muscles, which are responsible for moving the leg out from the body, over time causing misalignment not only in the hips, but in the knees and feet as well.
Trauma to the patella, either from a direct blow or from chronic pressure being placed on the patellofemoral joint due to excessive use, can cause the cartilage to become roughened or worn away. This wear and tear is often exacerbated by obesity, as the knees are required to carry more weight than they were built for. The patellofemoral joint is also more prone to deterioration due to aging, and is one of the first places many seniors experience pain as they get older.
In order to successfully treat chondromalacia patella, it is important to first reduce the pain and inflammation. An anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can make the pain manageable on a short-term basis. Glucosamine and chondroitin, as well as omega-3 fatty acid supplements can also be helpful in reducing inflammation. Then, the cause of your condition as diagnosed by your doctor or chiropractor will determine the course of treatment.
It is likely that physical therapy such as exercises to strengthen and/or stretch certain muscle groups will be involved. You chiropractor can perform adjustments to realign any joints that may be contributing to the misalignment of your leg, increasing flexibility and range of motion, and thus improving the chondromalacia patella. Orthotics are sometimes prescribed for those with flat feet or knock-knees to help keep the legs in proper alignment. Some therapists utilize soft tissue work to remove any adhesions in the muscles that may be preventing the patella from sliding smoothly over the femur.
Using these treatment options can help you get back to your everyday activities, allowing you to be free from knee pain.