Cartilage Damage

Cartilage is a tough and flexible connective tissue that is found in many areas of the body. This rubbery tissue  functions as a cushion for bones at joints. People with cartilage damage commonly experience joint pain, stiffness and inflammation.
Cartilage has several functions:

  • Reduces friction and acts as a cushion between joints –
  • Holds bones together – the bones on our ribcage are held together thanks to cartilage.
  • Acts as a mould – some of our body parts are made either exclusively or almost exclusively from cartilage, for example, the external parts of our nose.

Cartilage unlike other types of tissue does not have a blood supply. Blood cells help repair tissue damage by diffusion. As a result, damaged cartilage takes much longer to heal, compared to other tissues in our body which have a blood supply.

What are the causes of cartilage damage?

  • Direct blow – if a joint receives a high impact, the cartilage may be damaged.
  • Wear and tear – sustained stress on a joint over a prolonged period may eventually take its toll. Inflammation, breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage in the joints is known as osteoarthritis.
  • Lack of movement – Prolonged periods of inactivity or immobility increase the risk of damage to the cartilage.

Symptoms of Cartilage Damage Include:

  • Swelling
  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness
  • A decreased range of movement in the affected joint

If the damage is severe, a piece of cartilage can break off and become loose. This can cause a feeling of the joint ‘locking’ or catching. The joint may also give way due to pain and swelling.

What is the treatment for cartilage damage?

Conservative treatment – some patients respond well to conservative treatment, which may include special exercises, the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Exercises may include an exercise program the client can do at home to help strengthen the joint and maintain muscle balance. If the damage is not extensive, this may be all the client needs (without surgery).

Surgery -is the alternative option for patients who do not respond to conservative treatment. There are several surgical options, which will be recommend depending  on several factors, including the age and activity level of the patient, how big the lesion is, and how long the injury has been present.

Where possible it is best to treat the injury conservatively and allow the body heal itself, physical therapy with hands on treatment, rehab exercises and other treatment techniques can help speed up the recovery in a controlled manner.