Chondromalacia patellae, which is also commonly known as CMP or runner’s knee, occurs when the cartilage on the backside of the kneecap becomes damaged and begins to break down. Cartilage is found in joints all over the body, and it is responsible for cushioning compression forces with certain movements and helps to prevent joint pain from occurring.
When the cartilage begins to break down, it can make it painful to walk and perform a variety of activities and may cause grinding or popping in the knee when it bends or extends. Due to the pain that can arise, pharmaceuticals are often used to help reduce discomfort. These medications are also used after surgical procedures during rehabilitation.
Generally, this injury is treated with arthroscopic surgery to repair the cartilage or with a complete knee replacement using an artificial joint. However, the use of mesenchymal stem cells can help to repair damaged tissues in a minimally invasive way, allowing you to avoid surgical procedures altogether.
How Does Chondromalacia Patellae Occur?
When the knee bends, the kneecap slides over the front side of the bottom of the femur bone between its two condyles. These condyles form two knobs on the bottom of the thigh bone and allow the femur to slide on top of the tibia, or lower leg bone. The patella has cartilage on the back of it to allow it to slide more easily.
The patella is connected to the tibia by a ligament and the quadriceps muscle by a tendon. If the knee becomes damaged in a certain way, it can cause the patella to move in the wrong path. Poor patella tracking can result in the cartilage on the back of the kneecap breaking down and causing knee pain and irritation.
Tracking issues can occur for a wide variety of reasons. Some of these can include weak thigh muscles, specifically including the quadriceps and hamstrings. It can also be caused by the adductors on the inside of the thigh and abductors on the outside of the thigh becoming imbalanced. This condition can result from activities that cause the knee to bend repeatedly. Some of these can include running, jumping, or skiing.
For older individuals who suffer from arthritis, this condition can occur even more often. Arthritis causes joints to become swollen and inflamed. When this occurs in the knee, the damage can spread to the cartilage on the patella as well.
The Use of Stem Cells for Treatment
Mesenchymal stem cells are being used to help regenerate tissues throughout the body to help alleviate a number of different injuries. These cells are generated naturally in the human body and are found in bone marrow, fat cells, and synovial tissue.
These cells serve a special purpose in the healing process because they are multipotent. This means that they can turn into different types of cells depending on where they are in the body, including bone, cartilage, and the connective tissue of tendons and ligaments.
Because these cells can turn into new cartilage cells, injecting them into a damaged cartilage tissue can help to regenerate the tissue and replace cells that have degenerated. This can be especially useful for injuries like CMP.
One study looked at the use of stem cells to treat chondromalacia patellae. They found that these three patients all showed a 50 to 70 percent improvement in pain after one month, and pain levels improved by 80 to 90 percent after three months. A year after the treatments, the reduction in pain levels remained the same.
Advantages of Mesenchymal Stem Cells Over Surgical Treatments
One of the biggest advantages that stem cell therapy offers is lower cost. This treatment is fairly quick from start to finish. The stem cells can be derived from a bone marrow sample, which can be taken with minimal pain. The sample is then processed quickly, and the injection itself can be performed efficiently and effectively with image-guided techniques.
Surgical procedures require hospital or surgery center fees, anesthetics, and more, all of which can be quite costly. These options also require much longer recovery time and result in more discomfort following the surgery.
In most cases, physical therapy is required for months following the operation to retrain muscle activation and strength, regain knee flexion and extension, and prevent muscle compensations from occurring.
The discomfort and pain following surgery often require the use of pharmaceuticals as well. Using prescription medications, especially over a longer period of time, can result in many issues with dependence or addiction, medications becoming ineffective, or increased sensitivity to pain.
All in all, mesenchymal stem cell therapy provides a much greater alternative for CMP treatment compared to the other surgical procedures that currently exist and are widely used. Stem cells promote healing in a minimally-invasive way and utilize the body’s own cells to regenerate cartilage that has been broken down in the knee, and they are able to do this without the need for surgery, physical therapy, or heavy medication use.