Cartilage Damage

What is Cartilage Damage?

Cartilage damage is an injury or degenerative condition that degrades the smooth, flexible tissue that lines and supports the joints. Cartilage is the physical cushion that prevents bones from grinding together when they move, and it’s found in the shoulders, knees, elbows, wrists, hips, and other major joints throughout the body. When cartilage is damaged, it can be painful and limit joint mobility, leading to long-term joint damage.

Types of Cartilage Damage

Cartilage damage includes traumatic injuries and degenerative conditions. Common traumatic injuries include fractures, sprains, and dislocations. Degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis typically appear over time as the cartilage wears away. Symptoms of both types of damage can include:

  • Stiffness and limited mobility
  • Pain at rest or during movement
  • Bone-on-bone grinding
  • Inflammation, redness, and swelling
  • Joint locking and catching

Causes of Cartilage Damage

Injuries, repetitive use, genetics, and age can all cause cartilage damage. Traumatic injuries are the most common causes, usually due to high-impact force. Degenerative cartilage damage is usually due to repetitive motions and increased stresses on the joints. The risk of cartilage damage increases with age, as the cartilage becomes less able to resist tears and wear-and-tear.

Treating Cartilage Damage

Cartilage damage treatments vary depending on the cause and severity of damage. In milder cases, rest, elevation, and ice may be sufficient to heal the affected area. In more severe cases, a doctor may recommend physical therapy to gently strengthen the surrounding muscles and protect the joint, or a surgical procedure to repair or replace the damaged cartilage.