by Rick Alan
Chondromalacia patella is a softening or wearing away of the articular cartilage on the undersurface of the patella, more commonly known as the kneecap. Articular cartilage cushions the femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone) where they meet in the knee, allowing them to move freely and easily. But, when the articular cartilage softens or wears away, pain and inflammation result.
Treatment is done at home. Surgery may be needed in rare cases.
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
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
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 these 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 recommend:
Compression can help prevent more swelling. Your doctor may recommend 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
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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 May 3, 2013.
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.
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Last reviewed May 2013 by Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPH; Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 5/3/2013
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