What is patellofemoral arthritis?

After years of pain, and avoiding many things in life because of it, my orthopedic specialist has discovered that I have Patellofemoral arthritis.

Which means: I have no cartilage in my right knee.

I remember first hurting my knee at winter camp when I was in high school. I was running up stairs to get something… and POW! Something popped… and I have had pain off/on ever since. But I also decided to play softball in high school, college and in my early twenties… and I usually got put in the catchers’ position. Yup – really great on the knee!

And I also played volleyball throughout high school… yup, another great sport for the knee.

One could guess that I’d be in this position in my mid-30s… and here I am.

I can barely kneel down to scrub the tub. And getting up off the floor is no longer graceful. I can only barely walk up and down stairs… and going down the stairs is more scary than going up. So, I simply avoid it altogether.

Sometimes the pain is excruciating. Sometimes it’s just a dull pain… but the pain is always there.

After years of Dr’s visits (my general practioner) where he just prescribed pain medication (which I usually just stuck at the back of the drawer), followed by a cortisone shot (that worked great at first and then wore off at about month 4)… I finally pleaded with him to send me to a specialist.

They took an x-ray. I had an exam… where he guessed what was going on. Then he ordered an MRI (which I hated – more on that later). And he had been right with his initial guess. I don’t have any ligament or meniscus damage… but neither do I have any cartilage to speak of.

So, now what? Well, until the wise people of this world figure out how to recreate cartilage there’s not a lot you can do. He suggested against knee replacement (at y weight it’s not an ideal solution) – and from the sounds of it he doesn’t like doing knee replacement surgeries on people under 60. Apparently the man-made joint wears out after about 10 years and it has to be replaced. Which means another replacement surgery.. ick!

I could have a patellectomy… which means, remove the knee cap. But that limits motion and range… NO THANKS! I can continue to manage the pain just fine, thank you!

He also explained that when I have a pain “flare up” I can come in for an injection that will help with lubricating the joint. That will eventually wear off… and then I can get another injection when needed.

So, now what?

Now I continue to lose weight… he confirmed this should be one of my first steps. And he provided safe exercises that will limit more damage to my knees.

Now I twist my husband’s arm to do the cleaning that involves kneeling.

Now we think about our housing situation. He advised against living in a multi-level place. We are currently selling our place and looking at new homes (to potentially buy)… multi-level homes may be out of the equation.

Now I take 2 naproxen twice a day and keep an ice pack with me at work for after my morning rides.

And this morning… I rode nearly half a marathon. 11.7 miles in 45 minutes. I set the bike on a random hill setting, range in workout level from 1 – 14. (Can you still call it a “marathon” if you are riding?! Or only when you run?! ‘Cuz I wouldn’t be able to run it… )

And now… off I go for my second dose of naproxen…


3 thoughts on “What is patellofemoral arthritis?

  1. You asked the question, “Now what?” My personal opinion and experience is that any kind of arthritis should be treated by or at least get a second opinion from a rheumatologist, the arthritis specialist! I go to Dr. Smitha Reddy and Mark goes to Dr. Paul Brion.


    • Thanks Paulette. Please note, this post was just added today, but it was originally drafted several years ago. As a side note, the cycling has certainly helped the knee. And so far so good! I haven’t had the same pain since cycling (and losing the 45+ lbs). The more I move it, the better I feel. Otherwise I certainly would have tracked down a second opinion… and will consider doing so, if necessary at some point in the future.


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