The cartilage under your kneecap is a natural shock absorber. Overuse, injury or other factors may lead to a condition known as chondromalacia patella (kon-droh-muh-LAY-shuh puh-TEL-uh) — a general term indicating damage to the cartilage under your kneecap. A more accurate term for chondromalacia patella is patellofemoral (puh-tel-o-FEM-uh-rul) pain syndrome.
The most common symptom is knee pain that increases when you walk up or down stairs. Simple treatments — such as rest and ice — often help, but sometimes physical therapy or even surgery is needed to ease patellofemoral pain.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome usually causes a dull, aching pain in the front of your knee. This pain can be aggravated when you:
When to see your doctor
Doctors aren't certain what actually causes patellofemoral pain syndrome, but it's been associated with:
Factors that may increase your risk include:
Patellofemoral pain can lead to difficulty with routine activities, such as squatting and climbing stairs.
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor. In some cases, you may be referred to a physical therapist, an orthopedic surgeon or a sports medicine specialist.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
During the physical exam, your doctor will press on different parts of your knee and move your leg into a variety of positions. These maneuvers will help rule out other conditions that have similar signs and symptoms.
To help determine the cause of your knee pain, your doctor may recommend imaging tests such as:
Treatments and drugs
Treatment of patellofemoral pain often begins with simple measures. Rest your knee as much as possible. Avoid any activities that increase the pain, such as climbing stairs.
Surgical and other procedures
Sometimes knee pain just happens. But certain steps may help prevent the pain.
Last Updated: 2013-02-05
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