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Understanding Cartilage Damage

Written by OmegaXL on May 15, 2014

There are three different types of cartilage within the human body, two of which are found in our joints. The first type, articular cartilage, is a slick, smooth surface on the ends of bones that helps them slide easily past each other when we move our joints. Fibrocartilage is a thicker, tougher substance that acts as a shock absorber that keeps bones from knocking against each other. This type of cartilage is found between our vertebrae and in the knee joint.

What are the signs and symptoms of cartilage damage?

Cartilage can be damaged due to a direct impact injury such as an accident or a fall, but gradual damage due to wear and tear is far more common. In either case, people who have damaged cartilage will experience inflammation that may or may not be visible from the outside, pain, and sometimes limited range of motion or a feeling that their joint is “frozen” in a certain position.

Consult with your doctor

It is important to consult with your doctor if you are experiencing joint pain severe enough to keep you from normal activity. Keep in mind that cartilage does not have a blood supply, so it takes much longer to heal compared to something like a muscle tear. Be sure to consistently follow your doctor’s treatment instructions for as long as he or she recommends. This will give your cartilage time to heal and prevent further damage.

The first priority when dealing with a damaged joint is to reduce inflammation and the pain it causes. Your doctor may recommend a pain reliever that also reduces inflammation – like aspirin or ibuprofen, or if the inflammation is severe, may treat with steroids to quickly reduce swelling. If you are experiencing pain and stiffness due to joint inflammation, consider adding an omega-3 supplement to your daily routine. Omega 3s fatty acids can reduce inflammation throughout the body, which helps relieve pain and improve your mobility.

In the case of more severe cartilage damage, your doctor may recommend surgical treatment. Even if surgery is needed, most patients only require a minor procedure performed through small incisions. This may involve resurfacing cartilage, removing small pieces of cartilage that have broken off, or grafting cartilage into areas where it has worn away. If your cartilage has been destroyed by a devastating injury or long-term unresolved damage, your surgeon can replace it or even the entire joint if necessary.