Articular cartilage cushions the femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone) where they meet in the knee, allowing them to move freely and easily. Chondromalacia patella is a softening or wearing away of the articular cartilage on the undersurface of the patella (kneecap).
Chondromalacia patella is caused by repetitive motion and misalignment of the kneecap.
This can occur due to:
Chondromalacia patella is more common in adolescence and young adulthood. Other factors that increase your risk of chondromalacia patella include:
Symptoms may include
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your knee may need to be viewed. This can be done with:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
Your knee will need time to heal. Avoid activities that place extra stress on your knee:
Apply an ice or a cold pack to the area for 15-20 minutes, four times a day, for several days after the injury. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel.
To manage pain, your doctor may advise:
Compression can help prevent more swelling. Your doctor may advise an elastic compression bandage around your knee. Be careful not to wrap the bandage too tight.
After treatment, you may need an elastic knee sleeve with the kneecap cut out to help support the knee joint.
Elevation can also help keep swelling down. Keep your knee higher than your heart as much as possible.
In most cases, surgery is not needed. But for some patients who have continued pain, surgery may performed. Surgical procedures include the following:
To reduce your chances of chondromalacia patella, take these steps:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Harris JD, Siston RA, Pan X, Flanigan DC. Autologous chondrocyte implantation: a systematic review. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2010 Sep 15;92(12):2220-2233.
Knee pain. Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries_poisoning/sports_injury/knee_pain.html. Updated October 2013. Accessed February 28, 2014.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 10, 2013. Accessed February 28, 2014.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner's knee). John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/mens_health/patellofemoral_pain_syndrome_runners_knee_85,P07841/. Accessed February 28, 2014.
Runner's knee (patellofemoral pain). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00382. Updated August 2007. Accessed February 28, 2014.
Pihlajamäki HK, Kuikka PI, Leppänen VV, Kiuru MJ, Mattila VM. Reliability of clinical findings and magnetic resonance imaging for the diagnosis of chondromalacia patellae. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2010 Apr;92(4):927-934.
Vasiliadis HS, Wasiak J, Salanti G. Autologous chondrocyte implantation for the treatment of cartilage lesions of the knee: a systematic review of randomized studies. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2010 Dec;18(12):1645-1655.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.