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).
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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:
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 recovery 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
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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 March 2015 by Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPTLast Updated: 2/28/2014