Under the kneecap there is a cartilage which serves as a natural shock absorber. If overused, injured or affected by other factors, these may lead to a condition known as chondromalacia patella (patellofemoral pain syndrome), a term indicating damage to the cartilage under the kneecap, or a more accurate term, patellofemoral pain syndrome.

The most common symptom is knee pain. It can increase when walking up or down stairs. Simple treatments (rest and ice) can often help, but sometimes physical therapy or even surgery is necessary.



Patellofemoral pain syndrome usually causes a dull, aching pain in the front of the knee. This pain can be aggravated when walking up or down stairs, kneel or squat or sit with a bent knee for a long time.



The pain can be associated with the following factors:

  • Injury,
  • Overuse,
  • Poor control of the muscles.


Risk factors

Factors that may increase the risk include:

  • Age. Patellofemoral pain syndrome typically affects adolescents and young adults. Knee problems in older populations are more commonly caused by arthritis.
  • Sex. Women are twice as likely as men to develop patellofemoral pain. This may be because a woman's wider pelvis increases the angle at which the bones in the knee joint meet.
  • Certain sports. Participation in running and jumping sports can put extra stress on the knees, especially if you've recently increased the training level.



Patellofemoral pain can lead to difficulty with routine activities, such as squatting and climbing stairs.



Treatment of patellofemoral pain often begins with simple measures. Rest the knee as much as possible. Avoid any activities that increase the pain, such as climbing.

If the pain does not go away, medications like pain relievers (acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen) may help.

A physical therapist may suggest:

  • Rehabilitation exercises,
  • Supportive braces,
  • Taping,
  • Ice,
  • Knee-friendly sports.

If nonsurgical treatments aren't effective, the doctor might suggest arthroscopy, by inserting pencil-thin device equipped with a camera lens and light into the knee through a tiny incision. Surgical instruments are passed through the arthroscope to remove fragments of damaged cartilage. In more-severe cases, a surgeon may need to operate on the knee to realign the angle of the kneecap or relieve pressure on the cartilage.



Sometimes knee pain just happens. But certain steps may help prevent the pain, such as:

  • Lose excess weight,
  • Maintain strength,
  • Do alignment and technique exercises,
  • Warm up,
  • Stretch,
  • Increase intensity gradually,
  • Use adequate and comfortable shoes.