Femoral Condyle Chondromalacia

By: Tracy Wilcox, PTA, LAT

What is Femoral Condyle Chondromalacia

Femoral Condyle Chondromalacia occurs when this cartilage at the end on the femur begins to soften and break down. It can lead to knee pain. 

Femoral Condyle Anatomy

The femoral condyles are located on the end of the femur (thigh bone). Like all joints they are covered by articular cartilage and function as a shock absorber for the knee. This causes the thigh bone and tibia (shin bone) rub together and cause friction. This friction can result in pain, grinding, catching, and decreased function.

Anatomical image of the bones of the knee with labels identifying the lateral femoral condyle, medial femoral condyle, patella, and tibial plateau to explain femoral condyle chondromalaciaLateral Femoral Condyle Anatomy

Causes of Femoral Condyle Chondromalacia

Femoral condyle chondromalacia is caused by an irritation of the end of the femur. It may be the result of the simple wear-and-tear on the knee joint as we age. However, in the younger population it is often due to an acute injury such as a fall or a long term overuse injury from sports. More specific causes of femoral condyle chondromalacia are:

  • poor alignment of the knee due to a congenital condition or body shape
  • when the muscles in the front of the thigh (quadriceps) and back of the thigh (hamstrings) are weak
  • muscle imbalance between the muscles on the inside of the thigh (adductors) and outside of the thigh (abductors)
  • repeated stress to your knee joints from high impact sports such as running, skiing, or jumping
  • a direct blow or trauma to your knee
  • excessive weight can also cause increased stress on the knees

Cartilage in Femur 

Treatment of Femoral Condyle Chondromalacia

Initial treatment involves managing pain and inflammation. This can be done by avoiding activities that cause irritation to the knee; utilizing ice packs; or taking anti-inflammatory medications. Persistent knee pain should be seen by a physician. Your doctor will most likely refer you to physical therapy.

Physical therapy can be useful in stretching tight muscles and strengthening weak muscles. Fixing these imbalances can decrease the stress on the knee. Cross training can be used to maintain cardiovascular conditioning with activities such as:

  • Stationary bicycling
  • Pool running
  • Swimming

Looking at the biomechanics of activities that cause the pain is also very helpful. For example, proper running shoes decrease stress on the knee while running; and proper alignment on a bike can decrease knee pain while cycling. Generally, full-squat and lunge exercises with heavy weight are avoided due to the increased stress on the knee.

Click here to learn Proper Squat Technique.

While in physical therapy for your knee pain you will do a lot of exercises for your hips. Patients often question why? There is a strong relationship between hip weakness and knee pain. Due to this your physical therapist will give you exercises that will strengthen your hip abductors, extensors, and rotators. If these muscles are weak the hip “drops” when your heel hits the ground during walking, running, biking causing increased stress on the knee. This chronic compression/stress on the knee can cause pain and chondromalacia over time.

It is important to address the causes of your knee pain. If the repetitive stress on the knee remains; the early changes in the cartilage (chondromalacia) may lead to osteoarthritis in the future.

Related Links:

If you have knee pain or think you may have Femoral Condyle Chondromalacia, the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute can help. To see a JOI Orthopedic Doctor, call (904)JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below. To see a JOI Rehab Therapist in 1 of our 12 locations, call (904)858-7045.

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