Knee Chondromalacia, Arthritis, And Tendonitis

person with Knee Chondromalacia

Articular cartilage, a type of tissue, cushions most joints in your body. This tissue covers the ends of bones inside a joint, helping cushion the bones and allowing them to glide smoothly against one another. When the cartilage inside a joint softens and breaks down, it’s called chondromalacia or knee chondromalacia.

How does knee chondromalacia feel? 

The knee can feel painful after activity due to cartilage thinning, early arthritis, or chronic tendonitis. Often, these conditions caused pain for years, but a change in weight or activity level makes it feel much worse.

How does it happen? 

Knee chondromalacia happens without any trauma, often when you are ramping up activity quickly in an effort to get back in shape.

How can knee chondromalacia be fixed? 

In most cases, you can fix chondromalacia by avoiding exacerbating activities, going to physical therapy, and using injection treatments such as cortisone, hyaluronic acid and plasma-rich platelets (PRP). In some cases, we use stem cell injections to decrease symptoms.

More about chondromalacia

Chondromalacia can affect any joint, but it is most common on the underside of the kneecap (the patella). When is affects the knee, we call it chondromalacia patella or knee chrondromalacia. Frequently, it starts as a small, painful area of softened cartilage behind the kneecap. When more cartilage softens,  it may crack, shred, or even wear away altogether. If this happens, your kneecap may grind painfully against other knee bones. 

In the knee, chondromalacia is usually related to injury, overuse of the knee, and poorly aligned muscles and bones around the knee joint. These causes include:

  • Trauma, especially a fracture (break) or dislocation of the kneecap
  • An imbalance of the muscles around the knee (Some muscles are weaker than others.)
  • Overuse (repeated bending or twisting) of the knee joint, especially during sports
  • Poorly aligned muscles or bones near the knee joint
  • Injury to a meniscus (C-shaped cartilage inside the knee joint)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis
  • An infection in the knee joint
  • Repeated episodes of bleeding inside the knee joint
  • Repeated injections of steroid drugs into the knee

Knee chondromalacia affects young adults more than other age groups and is especially common in athletes who stress their knees repeatedly, such as runners, skiers, soccer players, and cyclists. If your job requires you to spend a lot of time kneeling – for example, laying carpet, setting tile, and laying floors – you are also more likely to develop chondromalacia.

Learn more at the Patellofemoral Center.