Chondromalacia Patellae (Runner’s Knee)

Chondromalacia patellae, also known as runner’s knee, is damage or deterioration to the cartilage behind the kneecap (patella). Imbalances in the muscles that attach to the kneecap (i.e., tight outer thigh muscles and weak inner thigh muscles) can cause the kneecap to rub across the joint improperly, ultimately leading to cartilage damage. Excess weight may also contribute to worsening of your knee pain.

Symptoms of Chondromalacia Patellae

  • Pain located at front of the knee or under the kneecap (especially when going up or down stairs)
  • Grinding or grating in the knee during movement
  • Swelling and tenderness in and around the knee


There are nonsurgical and surgical treatment options available for chondromalacia patellae. Both treatment types are performed by our knee specialists at Orthopaedic Specialists.

Nonsurgical Treatments

The cartilage behind the kneecap has a very rich blood supply and may heal following nonsurgical treatments such as R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression (cold packs), and elevation), avoiding aggravating activities, wearing a knee brace, taking anti-inflammatories, and/or physical therapy. Losing weight and regaining muscle balance (strengthening weak muscles and stretching tight, overused muscles) can be very effective in relieving the stresses placed on the kneecap. While nonsurgical treatment can relieve mild cases of the condition, surgery may be necessary if it continues to worsen.

Diagnosis Using Knee Arthroscopy

When your knee becomes painful from overuse or arthritis, your surgeon may recommend knee arthroscopy (looking at your joint using a tiny video camera) to diagnose and even treat your problem. When you undergo the arthroscopic procedure, your surgeon can better understand the extent of your condition and may find less invasive options that can eliminate your symptoms.

Surgical Treatment

When the patella is not tracking properly over the knee joint and is causing pain, lateral release is performed to release the lateral retinaculum (tight soft-tissue structures attached to the kneecap). During surgery, a small incision is made on the lateral (outer) side of your kneecap to allow your surgeon to cut through the tight tissues and allow your patella to sit properly in its groove.