If your joint hurts, it might be due to damaged or lost cartilage. As you age, general wear and tear can cause this, especially if your hobbies or occupation requires repetitive motions. Trauma from a vehicle accident or other injury and diseases that affect the joints like arthritis can also damage the cartilage.
What is Cartilage and Why is it Essential?
Cartilage is the protective cushion between your bones. It is a strong, pliable, slick and smooth substance covering bones at the joints (where bones meet).
Cartilage’s primary functions are to eliminate friction between bones during joint extension and flexion and serve as padding during high-impact activities like jumping and running. Therefore, if it is missing or damaged, the result is pain, inflammation and reduced mobility. Furthermore, if there is no cartilage to protect the bones, they become more porous and weaken. In addition, they can grow osteophytes (bone spurs).
Why Cartilage Does Not Regenerate
Cartilage cannot regenerate on its own because there is not enough blood flow to the tissue to stimulate cell regeneration. Medical intervention is necessary once the cartilage is damaged or lost; only treatment, repair or replacement can preserve natural joint function.
Repairing or replacing damaged cartilage can improve function, provide pain relief and prevent or delay osteoarthritis or other complications.
Who is a Candidate?
Cartilage surgeries are most successful in younger, active people who do not have alignment or stability issues; those who have localized cartilage damage (as opposed to widespread damage like that found in severe osteoarthritis patients), those who feel pain at rest or have been in pain for a relatively short time.
Suppose you are not eligible for surgery or choose not to do it. In that case, you might find pain relief by losing weight, avoiding high-impact activities (for example, by switching from running to swimming), strengthening muscles with physical therapy or taping or bracing.
You Can Avoid Joint Replacement with Cartilage Repair
Joint replacement is a timely ordeal, requiring physical therapy and an extended healing period. Understandably, it is the last resort. Some patients might have the option to repair, replace or regenerate cartilage first to prevent or postpone the need for a joint replacement.
Contact Dr. Jonathan Glashow of Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine to discuss your options. We offer cartilage repair, replacement and joint preservation therapies and we also perform joint replacement surgery when restoration is no longer an option.