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Our ability to move freely and without pain is something that should never be taken for granted. Yet, most of us do, until that ability is taken away from us. 

“I watch my daughter run with her team and reminisce about when I used to be able to go out for a ten-mile run without any issue,” said Laura Heron. “But my knee pain got to be too much, so I gave it up for swimming.” 

According to Harvard Health, chondromalacia, also called runner’s knee, affects young adults more than any other age group. While Laura had chondromalacia of the knee, it can affect any joint. When the cartilage inside a joint softens and breaks down, it becomes frayed, and the underlying bone becomes exposed. Once the cartilage loses its ability to protect the bones as the joint moves, pain occurs. 

“Chondromalacia is most often caused by injury, overuse, poorly aligned muscles and bones around the knee joint, muscle weakness, and muscle imbalance,” said Barrett Ford, PT, and Founder of Step & Spine Physical Therapy. “It is a progressive condition that often deteriorates over time.” 

Had Laura been seen early, she may have prevented further degradation of her knee joint cartilage. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with grade 4 chondromalacia, which is the most severe form and usually indicates bone on bone rubbing is occurring in the knee.

“As movement experts, it breaks our heart when we hear about someone who can’t do the things they once loved because of severe pain,” said Ford. “Physical therapy can be extremely beneficial in reducing further deterioration of cartilage.”

How Physical Therapy Addresses Chondromalacia

Physical therapists focus on strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, and abductors to improve balance and prevent knee misalignment when treating knee pain. At home, people with knee pain can incorporate non-weight-bearing exercises such as swimming and cycling. 

Chondromalacia is usually considered a permanent problem. However, physical therapy can relieve knee pain within a few months. 

“I have had great success treating people with knee issues, helping them get back to doing the things they love,” said Ford.

For more information about knee osteoarthritis, knee pain, or chondromalacia, visit our website. You don’t need a physician’s referral to begin physical therapy. Call our office to schedule an evaluation in one of our four central Oregon clinics.

We look forward to helping you stay active.