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Chondromalacia Patella (Patellofemoral Syndrome)

What Is Chondromalacia Patella (Patellofemoral Syndrome)?

Chondromalacia patella is weakening and softening of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap (patella). It is felt that the degeneration of this particular cartilage occurs because of improper alignment of the kneecap in relation to the bone of the thigh, the femur. Knee pain from irritation of this degenerated cartilage during activities is often referred to as patellofemoral syndrome.

Chondromalacia patella is one of the most common causes of knee pain, especially in women.

What Causes Chondromalacia Patella?

Chondromalacia patella can occur for unknown reasons, but it usually is caused by improper tracking of the kneecap (patella) as it slides over the bone of the thigh (femur). This misalignment leads to degeneration of the cartilage underneath the kneecap and results in localized knee pain.

The patella (kneecap) is normally pulled over the end of the femur in a straight line by the quadriceps (thigh) muscle. Patients with chondromalacia patella frequently have abnormal patellar tracking toward the outer (lateral) side of the femur. This slightly off-kilter pathway allows the undersurface of the patella to grate along the femur, causing chronic inflammation and pain. Certain individuals are predisposed to develop chondromalacia patella: females, knock-kneed or flat-footed runners, or those with an unusually shaped patellar undersurface.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/28/2016

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