Chondromalacia patellae, a condition associated with the knees, occurs when the cartilage on the undersurface of the patella (kneecap) deteriorates and softens (1). It is also known as runner’s knee.
Chondromalacia patellae may result due to deterioration of the patella caused by an acute injury or chronic friction between the patella and a groove in the femur bone through which it passes when the knee bends.
This type of knee problem is common among young, athletic individuals. However, older adults who have arthritis of the knee can also suffer from it.
Women are more prone to developing runner’s knee than men. Other factors that may increase your risk of developing chondromalacia patellae include having flat feet, a prior injury to the kneecap, and intense physical activity levels.
The typical symptom of chondromalacia patellae is a pain in the knee area. The pain aggravates while walking, climbing or descending stairs, squatting, kneeling, running, standing up or sitting down for a long time with the knee bent.
Other symptoms include sensations of grinding or cracking when bending or extending your knee and swelling in the knee region.
Individuals engaged in active sports can suffer from knee pain. It can even make it difficult to carry out day-to-day activities.
Fortunately, there are home remedies and lifestyle changes that can provide relief from the symptoms of runner’s knee.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for chondromalacia patellae.
When you have knee pain due to chondromalacia patellae, it is very important to give your knee some rest. It is vital to the healing process.
Rest will help reduce the pressure on your kneecap and joint. Also, the cartilage damage resulting in runner’s knee can often repair by itself with rest. Moreover, without enough rest and recovery time, you only increase the risk of more pain and worsening of symptoms (2).
Hence, for some time, ensure that you give your inflamed knee proper rest. Place the hurt knee up on a chair with a pillow under your leg, and avoid sitting with your knees bent and standing for long periods of time.
2. Cold Compress
Applying cold compresses to the knee can help a lot in reducing pain and swelling (3) and promotes healing.
A cold compress has many benefits and can be made at home. The cold temperature will constrict the blood vessels, which will reduce blood flow to the area and lessen the swelling.
It will also give you relief from the unbearable pain.
- Wrap a handful of ice cubes in a thin towel.
- Apply the compress on the affected knee area for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Do this several times daily until your pain is gone.
Instead of ice, you can also use a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a clean cloth.
Caution: Do not apply ice directly on the affected knee, as it can cause frostbite.
To help stop swelling, try to compress the affected knee. Compression using a bandage is one of the recommended methods for conservation of runner’s knee (4).
Compression helps prevent fluid from accumulating in the knee area, which in turn stops swelling as well as pain. To apply compression, buy an ace wrap or elastic bandage from the market.
- Wrap the bandage around your knee using even pressure.
- Keep the bandage on during the day until the swelling reduces.
- Remove the bandage before you go to sleep.
Caution: Do not wrap the bandage too tightly, as it can cause swelling below the knee.
When suffering from chondromalacia patellae, keep the affected knee elevated above your chest level.
This will help improve circulation to the knee area, which in turn reduces discomforts like swelling, inflammation, and pain.
Elevation also facilitates elimination of toxins from the affected area.
While sleeping or sitting, keep a few pillows under your leg to rest and elevate your knee. Keep the knee elevated for as long as you can during the day.
Massage helps relieve knee pain due to chondromalacia patellae by improving circulation and soothing inflammation.
In fact, regular massage with some warm oil can improve pain and stiffness in the knee.
As a bonus, massage encourages drainage of excess fluid from the knee. It also provides relief from arthritis, one of the major causes behind chondromalacia patellae.
- Warm up some oil like coconut, olive, mustard, castor or garlic oil.
- Apply the oil on the knee.
- Using gentle pressure, massage the knee for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Do this several times a day.
Caution: If massaging causes more pain, stop doing it and consult your doctor.
Turmeric is very effective for any kind of pain, as it is a potent anti-inflammatory agent.
Turmeric has numerous health benefits which can be mainly attributed to curcumin–the main active ingredient. It helps reduce pain and swelling in the affected knee area.
Curcumin is known to mediate its anti-inflammatory effect by down regulating a transcription factor called NF-ⱪB, which in turn down regulates molecules like COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2) and LOX (lipoxygenase) which play a role in inflammation.
Other inflammatory molecules such as TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-α), NO (nitric oxide), interleukins-1 and -2 were also inhibited by curcumin (5).
Plus, the compound curcumin in turmeric helps improve blood flow in the area.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder and 4 teaspoons of health-nourishing olive oil to make a thick paste. Apply this paste on the affected knee. Cover it with a bandage, and leave it on for a couple of hours before rinsing it off with lukewarm water. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day.
- Also, mix ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder into a glass of nutritious tasty milk and warm it up. Drink this twice daily to reduce pain.
- You can opt to take curcumin supplements, but only after consulting your doctor.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another good remedy that you should try at home to ease the pain and swelling due to runner’s knee.
It helps reduce pain and swelling by eliminating accumulated toxins from the joints and connective tissues.
Also, its alkalizing effect is beneficial if you suffer from arthritis.
- Soak a small towel in a mixture of equal amounts of warm water and raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Wring out the excess liquid and wrap the towel around the painful knee for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day.
- Also, add 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of water. Add some raw honey and drink it twice daily.
Ginger works as a natural painkiller and is a treasure trove of health benefits.
It is one of the top superfoods that reduces inflammation due to a compound called gingerol that has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Hence, ginger helps reduce the pain and swelling associated with chondromalacia patellae.
Ginger also helps block COX-2, a chemical in the body that causes pain.
- Drink ginger tea 2 or 3 times a day. To prepare the tea, cut up a small piece of ginger, boil it in a cup of water for 10 minutes and strain it. To improve the taste, you can sweeten it with some delicious sweet organic honey.
- Also, you can massage the knee with a little ginger oil a few times a day.
9. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper contains a compound called capsaicin that gives it natural analgesic or pain-relieving properties.
A study published in 2013 demonstrated that capscaicin extracts were comparable in their analgesic effect to the standard drug diclofenac in animal models (6). It also has anti-inflammatory property.
- Warm ½ cup of coconut oil. Add 2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper powder to it and give it a nice stir. Apply it on the knee, leave it on for 20 minutes and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Do this 2 or 3 times a day. Store the remaining oil in an airtight bottle to use later.
- Alternatively, you can apply a capsaicin cream to the affected area daily.
Cayenne may initially cause a burning sensation, but soon you will feel better.
10. Castor Oil Pack
Castor oil is another great remedy to relieve chondromalacia patellae discomforts, such as pain and swelling in the knee.
The main active ingredient in castor oil is ricinoleic acid. In a study published in 2000, ricinoleic acid was shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties (7).
- Saturate a thick cotton cloth with castor oil.
- Loosely wrap it around your knee.
- Cover the area with a plastic wrap.
- Place a heating pad over the wrap for 20 minutes.
- Remove the heat and leave the castor oil pack on your knee for a few hours, preferably overnight.
- Do this once daily.
- To reduce extra pressure on your knees, try to stay in shape. Lose weight if you are carrying extra pounds.
- Before doing any exercise, do a 5-minute warm-up followed by stretching exercises and then start your exercise routine.
- Never increase the intensity of your workout abruptly. Always make changes gradually.
- For running and exercising, use the right kind of shoes and be sure they fit properly. Avoid wearing shoes that are too worn.
- Use orthotics if you have flat feet.
- Try to run on a soft, smooth surface and avoid running on concrete.
- Wear knee pads if you have to spend time on your knees.
- Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, to reduce inflammation around the joint.
- Acupuncture, a part of traditional Chinese medicine, can also give you relief from the pain and swelling due to chondromalacia patellae.
- Knee Pain (Chondromalacia Patella) | Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15607-knee-pain-chondromalacia-patella.
- Silfverskiöld N. Chondromalacia of the Patella. Acta Orthop Scand. 1938;9(2-3):214-229.
- Mcconnell J. The Management of Chondromalacia Patellae: A Long Term Solution. 1986. doi:10.1016/S0004-9514(14)60654-1.
- Subaşı V. Effectiveness of Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment in Chondromalacia Patellae. 2017. doi:10.5152/jarem.2017.1099.
- Pinsornsak P, Pinsornsak Md P, Niempoog S. The Efficacy of Curcuma Longa L. Extract as an Adjuvant Therapy in Primary Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Control Trial. J Med Assoc Thai. 2012;95(1). http://www.thaiscience.info/journals/Article/JMAT/10971309.pdf.
- Jolayemi AT, Ojewole JAO. Comparative anti-inflammatory properties of Capsaicin and ethyl-aAcetate extract of Capsicum frutescens linn [Solanaceae] in rats. Afr Health Sci. 2013;13(2):357-361. doi:10.4314/ahs.v13i2.23.
- Vieira C, Evangelista S, Cirillo R, Lippi A, Maggi CA, Manzini S. Effect of ricinoleic acid in acute and subchronic experimental models of inflammation. Mediators Inflamm. 2000;9(5):223-228. doi:10.1080/09629350020025737.