What is chondromalacia?

Chondromalacia occurs when the shock absorber (meniscus) between bones within a joint wears down, causing the bones to directly rub together. The rubbing wears down the hyaline cartilage which covers the ends of the bones within the joint resulting in pain.

It is an important component of patello-femoral syndrome which happens within the knee joint when the back of the knee cap and lower end of the thigh bone rub together.  Although most common within the knee joint, it has also been found present in all joints that have the hyaline cartilage as part of the joint surfaces.

Grades of chondromalacia
Grade: Description:
I swelling of the top layer of hyaline cartilage with breakdown of the network of collagen fibers
II surface breaks that extend to the middle layer of the hyaline cartilage
III breaks in the hyaline cartilage at the deepest layer
IV destruction of the hyaline cartilage with exposure of bone, indistinguishable from osteoarthritis