Chondromalacia is a condition involving damage to the cartilage. Some specialists are fast to diagnose chondromalacia (“bad cartilage”) as the cause of knee pain. Typically, chondromalacia is not a problem in younger patients, despite findings on an MRI. However, breakdown of this cartilage is a form of wear and tear and may worsen without proper management and treatment over time.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Individuals who are symptomatic will experience grinding and clicking of the knee with motion; pain, swelling, stiffness and in some cases, locking, along with decreasing range of motion in the knee. These symptoms will vary for each patient, as chondromalacia has specific grades of progression at various stages. Your physician will conduct a thorough history, physical examination, and order X-rays to check to see if there are any fractures or other damage to the knee.
Treatment for chondromalacia will be directed initially toward non-surgical management. However, if not properly treated, the condition will progress leading to more chronic symptoms. Initial treatment includes activity modification, physical therapy, stretching, bracing, anti-inflammatory medications and injections
In severe cases, arthroscopic surgical treatment for chondromalacia is recommended, and may involve removing loose cartilage, and shaving or smoothing rough areas of cartilage. Sometimes, cartilage restoration surgery may be recommended. If damage to articular cartilage exists, the knee will worsen over time, and patients may be counseled to avoid high-impact activities in order to slow the progression of this condition.