by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
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:
Risk Factors TOP
Chondromalacia patella is more common in adolescents and young adults. 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:
The knee will need time to heal. RICE is often the main part of treatment:
Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be advised to reduce pain.
A physical therapist will assess the knee. An exercise program will be created to help recover and to strengthen the muscles in the leg.
In most cases, surgery is not needed. But surgery may be needed if other treatments are not helpful. Surgical procedures include the following:
To reduce your chances of chondromalacia patella, take these steps:
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Harris JD, Siston RA, et al. 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:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated October 2014. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated February 28, 2017. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner's knee). Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed March 26, 2018.
Pihlajamäki HK, Kuikka PI, et al. 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.
Runner's knee (patellofemoral pain). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/patellofemoral-pain-syndrome/. Updated February 2015. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Vasiliadis HS, Wasiak J, et al. 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 March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT
Last Updated: 2/28/2014
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.