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Chondromalacia & Maintenance Exercises to Strengthen Thigh Muscles
Chondromalacia patella is a condition in which the soft connective tissue covering the underside of your knee becomes softened and/or worn down. When this occurs, the kneecap rubs against your knee joint, which can cause knee pain, clicking and grinding. Chondromalacia patella can occur for various reasons including misalignment of the knee, tight thigh muscles, weak thigh muscles, overuse, sudden increases in training, high-impact activities and flat feet. Since weak thigh muscles often contribute to this problem, strengthening exercises can help to keep the knee properly aligned and reduce the amount of stress placed on the knee during activity.
This exercise focuses on the quadriceps, which are found at the front of your upper leg. This is the primary muscle group responsible for stabilizing your kneecap during movement; therefore exercises targeting the quadriceps are particularly important in treating chondromalacia patella. To do this exercise, lie down on your back. Bend your left leg and place your foot flat on the floor. Extend your right leg away from your body. Keeping your right leg straight, slowly raise it up to a 45 degree angle. Slowly lower it back down to the starting position. As you do this exercise, focus on contracting the quadriceps muscle. Do 20 repetitions and do the same on the left leg. To increase the difficulty of this exercise, wrap an ankle weight around your lower leg.
Quad sets are another good exercise for strengthening the quadriceps. To do this exercise, lie down on your back. Bend your left leg and place your foot flat on the ground. Straighten your right leg. Contract the quadriceps in your right leg and push your knee down towards the ground. Hold for five seconds and then relax. Do five to 10 repetitions and do the same on the left leg. Place a pillow or rolled-up towel under your knee to make this exercise harder.
Wall squats focus on the buttocks, quadriceps and hamstrings. The hamstrings are found at the back of your upper leg and function to bend the knee. To perform this exercise, stand straight with your back against a wall and feet shoulder-width apart. Walk your feet away from the wall about 6 inches. While keeping your back in contact with the wall, bend your knees and slowly lower your buttocks toward the ground. Keep going until your knees are bent at about a 45-degree angle. Raise your body back up until your knees are straight. Repeat 10 to 15 times and do three sets. Keep your back straight and do not allow your knees to go in front of your toes.
Avoid any exercise that aggravates your knee pain, including running or jumping. Discontinue these exercises and notify your doctor or physical therapist if you experience knee pain, clicking, cracking or grinding while doing these exercises. Try doing a low-impact form of exercise instead such as swimming or an elliptical machine, which places less stress on your knees.
- MedlinePlus: Chondromalacia Patella
- FamilyDoctor.org: Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
- Katz JN, Brophy RH, Chaisson CE, et al. Surgery versus physical therapy for a meniscal tear and osteoarthritis. N Engl J Med. 2013;368(18):1675–1684. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1301408
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Knee exercises. Updated February, 2009.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Knee arthroscopy exercise guide. Updated February, 2017.
Kimberly Rienecke started her career as a health and fitness writer by working for various websites. She is a certified orthopedic physician assistant and an ACE-certified personal trainer. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Towson University.