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Patellofemoral Arthritis

Patellofemoral arthritis affects the patella, the small bone in front of the knee.

The patella - also known as the kneecap — protects the knee and connects the thigh and shinbone muscles. The underside of the patella is covered with articular cartilage, which enables the bones of the knee to move together smoothly. When this cartilage becomes worn, patellofemoral arthritis can result.

Causes and symptoms

There are two primary causes of patellofemoral arthritis:

  • Kneecap fractures. When the patella is fractured and heals, the surface of the joint may be rough. The friction as the kneecap moves against the joints over time can lead to arthritis.
  • Dysplasia. When the patella does not fit into its groove properly, it can stress and wear down the cartilage.

The prevailing symptoms of patellofemoral arthritis is pain at rest and during physical activity. The pain is most intense when performing activities that stress the kneecap, such as squatting, climbing or kneeling.

Other symptoms may include a crackling sound as you move your knee and "catching" of the knee when you straighten it.


Treatment for patellofemoral arthritis begins with conservative, nonsurgical methods, such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Physical activity
  • Physical therapy
  • Lifestyle modification, such as losing weight and avoiding certain activities that aggravate symptoms
  • Cortisone injections

If your condition doesn't improve with conservative treatments, your doctor may suggest surgery. There are several ways to surgically treat patellofemoral arthritis:

  •  Realignment of the joint
  • Grafting healthy cartilage onto the back of the kneecap
  • Partial knee replacement
  • Trimming and smoothing the rough joint surfaces

Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that suits your condition and meets your personal needs and goals.

To learn more, call 714-456-7012 or schedule an appointment online ›

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