The cartilage under your kneecap (patella) is a natural shock absorber. Overuse, injury or other factors may lead to a condition known as chondromalacia patella — a general term indicating damage to the cartilage under your kneecap. A more accurate term for chondromalacia patella is patellofemoral 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:
You may also experience a grating or grinding sensation when you extend your knee.
When to see your doctor
Doctors aren't certain what actually causes patellofemoral pain syndrome, but it's been associated with:
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
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: 2010-08-07
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