Patellofemoral syndrome, also known as chondromalacia patella, is a painful knee condition caused by a degeneration of the cartilage in the kneecap, which may be caused by overuse, injury, obesity or malalignment of the kneecap. While this condition can affect anyone, it is most common in athletes and people who put heavy stress on their knees.
Symptoms of Patellofemoral Syndrome
Individuals with patellofemoral syndrome experience knee pain that gets worse when the knee is bent, during activities that may include:
- Walking up or down stairs
Some individuals also experience a buckling or popping sensation within the knee, as well as feelings of tightness or fullness.
Diagnosis of Patellofemoral Syndrome
Patellofemoral syndrome is diagnosed through a physical examination of the knee and leg. Imaging tests may include X-rays, MRI scans or CT scans to visualize the tissue within the knee and rule out structural damage as the cause of pain.
Treatment of Patellofemoral Syndrome
While patellofemoral syndrome may be a chronic condition, there are several basic treatment options available to relieve symptoms, most of which focus on avoiding activities that may cause pain. Additional treatment may include:
- Anti-inflammatory pain medications
- Icing the affecting area
- Supportive braces
- Physical Therapy
Customized physical therapy exercises, including stretching of the hip, knee, and ankle to improve flexibility and relieve tightness, may also be effective for treating patellofemoral syndrome. Strengthening of the quadriceps and hamstrings is also important to ensure muscle balance about the knee joint. Weakness and stiffness are two common causes of patellofemoral syndrome that is amenable to rehabilitation.