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Chondromalacia Physical Therapy: Information, Exercises, and More

The dull ache keeps you awake at night. Trying to make it down the stairs is excruciating, and the grinding sound you hear when you straighten your leg is almost more than you can bear. 

You want to get back to living a normal life, but you don’t know where to start to overcome the pain of chondromalacia.

We’re here to help.

In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about chondromalacia patella, including treatment options, exercises, and more.

Table of Contentschondromalacia physical therapy

What Is Chondromalacia Patella? 

Your body is full of joints cushioned by what’s known as articular cartilage. This rubbery, tough tissue covers the ends of the bones inside your joints. It helps cushion your bones and allows them to glide smoothly over one another as you move. 

But over time, this cartilage softens — or worse — deteriorates. This condition is called chondromalacia. As the cartilage continues to deteriorate, the bones rub together, resulting in pain and decreased mobility.

Chondromalacia can affect any joint in the body, but most commonly affects the cartilage under your patella, or knee cap, and is referred to as chondromalacia patella.

What Causes Chondromalacia?

There are several reasons why chondromalacia occurs, but the most common causes involve: 

  • Abnormal positioning of the kneecap
  • Tightness/weakness of the muscles associated with the knee
  • Too much activity involving the knee 
  • Flat feet
  • A knee injury; or
  • Improper knee alignment

Who Is at Risk for Chondromalacia?

Although it’s most common in athletes who put repeated stress on their knees, you don’t have to be a marathon runner to get diagnosed with chondromalacia. 

Others at risk for chondromalacia include:

  • Young adults
  • Women
  • People whose jobs require excessive bending at the knees
  • People who have had a kneecap injury, fracture, or dislocation

What Are the Symptoms of Chondromalacia?

Pain, pain, and more pain. That’s what chondromalacia symptoms are made of. 

Similar to people suffering from runner’s knee, individuals with chondromalacia may experience:

  • Knee tenderness
  • Swelling and inflammation around the kneecap
  • Knee pain that increases after sitting for long periods
  • Pain when walking up or down stairs or getting out of a chair
  • A grinding or cracking sensation when the knee is straightened

Chondromalacia pain may also occur after prolonged periods of activity that place extreme pressure on the knees.

If you are suffering from knee pain or other symptoms of chondromalacia, contact your doctor. Early treatment may prevent further damage to the articular cartilage and ease your symptoms.

How Is Chondromalacia Patella Treated?

Your physician will likely schedule an assessment to determine the right treatment plan for your unique symptoms. 

In most cases of chondromalacia, you’ll begin with conservative treatments. If those cannot relieve symptoms, you will then likely move on to a more serious treatment plan or surgery. 

Non-Surgical Treatment

Physical therapy and activity modification are the most common treatments for chondromalacia.

Treatments that may be combined with these include: 

If non-surgical treatments do not reduce the pain or dysfunction, your physician may recommend surgical treatment.

Surgical Treatment

An arthroscopy is the most common type of surgery performed for chondromalacia. 

Your physician may recommend arthroscopy to check the cartilage around your kneecap. If the cartilage is softened or shredded, the surgeon will remove the damaged layers during the surgery. 

If realignment to reduce the wear and tear on your knee cartilage is necessary, this may also be done during surgery.

Does Physical Therapy Help Chondromalacia?

Physical therapy for chondromalacia is one of the best options for overcoming pain associated with the ailment. 

Your physical therapist will access your condition and create a treatment plan based on your unique needs. 

Your appointments will focus on improving the … 

  • Strength
  • Flexibility and
  • Alignment

… around your knee joint and your entire lower extremity.

Chondromalacia Physical Therapy Exercises

Correcting alignment issues and strengthening any weakened muscles that support your knee can relieve the symptoms associated with chondromalacia. 

Most chondromalacia physical therapy exercises can be done at home using nothing other than your own body weight. 

Exercises that can be done to help chondromalacia symptoms include: 

  • Roller leg lifts
  • Straight leg lifts
  • Clamshells
  • Wall slides
  • Bridges; and
  • Hip abductions


Exercises To Avoid

There are a few exercises that should be avoided if you’re suffering from chondromalacia. 

Unless otherwise cleared by your doctor or physical therapist, don’t attempt: 

  • Squats
  • Leg extension machines
  • High-impact exercises; or
  • Weight-bearing exercises

Starting an exercise routine to improve your condition can be intimidating. Seek advice/guidance from your doctor or physical therapist until you are comfortable with the proper technique and form at home.

Visit the Professional Team at In Motion O.C. To Experience the Benefits of Chondromalacia Physical Therapy

At Motion O.C., our mission is to bring hope, healing, confidence, and joy to others. 

You don’t have to continue living in pain. 

Our staff is here to help you manage your chondromalacia symptoms and begin the road to recovery. 

As the #1 physical therapist practice on Yelp nationwide, we’re committed to finding the best treatment plan for your individual needs. 

Schedule a consultation today to learn more about our chondromalacia patella physical therapy protocol.

*This information about physical therapy for chondromalacia was reviewed by Dr. Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.


The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

In Motion O.C.