Chondromalacia patellae is softening of the cartilage underneath the patella.
Chondromalacia patellae often causes generalized knee pain, without swelling, especially when climbing or descending stairs, playing sports that exert an axial load on the knees, or sitting for a long time. This disorder probably results from angular or rotational changes in the leg that unbalance elements of the quadriceps and cause patellar misalignment during movement.
Acute pain due to chondromalacia patellae is treated by applying ice and taking analgesics. Children with chondromalacia patellae should avoid pain-causing activities (typically, those that involve bending the knee) for several days. Persistent or recurrent pain due to chondromalacia patellae may be relieved by arthroscopic smoothing of the patella's undersurface.
Last full review/revision February 2008 by Frank Pessler, MD, PhD; David D. Sherry, MD
Content last modified September 2013