Chondromalacia and Cartilage damage

Diagnosis and Treatment for Knee Pain

Symptoms of Chondromalacia

Chondromalacia in the knee presents different symptoms depending on the degree of injury. Common symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Catching, locking, giving-way
  • Grinding
  • Inability to fully straighten or bend knee
  • Knee pain

A patient may have one symptom or all of them. And it’s quite common for meniscus or cartilage injury symptoms to vary from day to day. Before explaining the treatments available for these knee problems, it’s important to understand the different kinds of cartilage found in the knee.


Types of Cartilage
in the Knee

There are two types of cartilage in the knee: meniscus cartilage and articular cartilage.

Meniscus Cartilage

The meniscus is a soft, “rubbery,” shock-absorbing cartilage disk between the thigh bone (femur) and the leg bone (tibia). There is a medial (inner) and lateral (outer) meniscus in each knee.

Articular Cartilage

Articular cartilage is the white, hard, smooth material at the ends of bones. Because it is normally very smooth, the joint is able to freely glide with movement.

Both types of cartilage protect the knee joint. With knee injuries, normal aging, or rheumatologic diseases, the cartilage can be worn away, leaving bone on bone within the joint, which contributes to knee pain.



Chondromalacia results from damage to the smooth, hard, white articular cartilage on the ends of bones. This damage can occur with wear and tear and overuse over many years. Or it can occur as a result of an injury. The wear and tear process usually occurs in 4 stages commonly labeled by surgeons as:

  • Grade I: Softening of the cartilage
  • Grade II: Tearing or fissuring of the cartilage surface
  • Grade III: The tears and fissures become deep and involve more than 50% of the thickness
  • Grade IV: The cartilage is worn down to bone

Diagnosing the Cause of Knee Pain

During your office visit, Dr. Goradia will ask about your knee pain, other symptoms, and any injuries that occurred. He will then carefully examine your knee for a variety of different conditions.

In most cases these two steps can provide the surgeon with a very good idea of your diagnosis. X-rays will also be performed. Although chondromalacia and meniscus tears are not visible on x-rays, the x-ray can provide important information regarding arthritis, fractures, and osteochondral defects. If there is severe damage (i.e. arthritis), the x-rays will show it.

If you don’t respond to initial non-operative treatment or if you have a recent injury that results in a large amount of swelling, an MRI can be ordered. An MRI can identify meniscus tears and cartilage damage but only arthroscopy can accurately determine the extent of damage and simultaneously provide treatment.


Treatment of Chondromalacia

Black woman stretches out her legs in her living room after a workout. Chondromalacia or other knee problems can inhibit your ability to engage in physical activity. Schedule your appointment with our knee doctors in Richmond Virginia so you can keep doing the activities you love pain free!