If you have a painful knee, particularly when taking the stairs, you could have a condition called chondromalacia patella. Also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome or anterior knee pain, this condition is often caused by the irritation or injury to the cartilage under your kneecap.
Symptoms and Causes
Picture the cartilage behind the knee cap as a biologica friction reducer, reducing the friction of every step you make whether it is walking, running, jumping or even skipping. Repetitive movements, overuse of the knee or even injury can damage the cartilage over time. The cartilage in the knee joint itself is a shock absorber, the cartilage behind the knee cap is more to help with smooth movement / reducing friction) Because going up and down the stairs puts a lot of stress on the knee, this is when you most often feel the pain. You likely will feel pain if you sit for long periods with a bent knee or when you squat or kneel as well. Some people feel a grinding or crushing sensation during knee extensions.
Repetitive actions which stress the knee joints such as competitive jump roping or track and field events can cause chondromalacia patella. Injury such as a knee fracture or even a dislocation can be a contributing factor. Improperly aligned bones in the foot or knee are another cause of the anterior knee pain.
Specific activities, sex and age all are contributing risk factors of patellofemoral pain. Jumping and running sports strain or traumatise the knee. Women are more likely than men to develop this knee condition due to the wider pelvic region. In addition, young adults and teenagers tend to develop this condition because of their higher physical activity levels.
Treatment of anterior knee pain typically takes a multi-pronged approach using physiotherapy and orthotics in the form of prescription insoles in the shoes). There are specific exercises that can strengthen muscles around the knees, legs and hips that can help with rehabilitation. Exercise such as swimming, which does not put any stress on the knees is encouraged too. An orthopaedic professional will likely also expound on the virtues of ice therapy after exercise as well as over the counter pain relievers with anti-inflammatories.
Orthotic foot insoles and supportive braces for the knees can also go a long way towards reducing pain and increasing mobility. These feet arch supports and knee braces can help improve any misalignments as well as protect the knee joint itself. Only as a last resort would realignment surgery or arthroscopy be considered for a case of chondromalacia patella. Luckily, physical rehabilitation and orthotics often does the job of alleviating the knee pain so you can maintain an active lifestyle.