The role of joint cartilage is so essential for the joint’s range of motion. It can help absorb stress or pressure so thus the joint can move flexible with almost no friction, protecting the joint from damage. However, some conditions can damage it. How to treat and build it? Here are some treatment options.
As well we know that your joints are one of the most important elements to support your movement. To keep move smoothly, they need cartilage – particularly articular cartilage (a though tissue, but flexible).
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Healthy cartilage can provide extra protection to your joints and allow them to safely glide over each other. In other words it is required to protect the ends of your bones by preventing them from fractioning against each other.
Damaged, injured, or inflamed cartilage can lead to joint pain, swelling, and stiffness which eventually will cause limited movement or even disability in severe case.
Many cases of cartilage damage affect the knee joints. There are some causes or conditions that can lead to cartilage problems. Some of them include:
- Some types of arthritis, especially such as osteoarthritis.
- Tears, a fall, and sport injuries.
- Genetic factors. At birth, some individuals can have defective cartilage.
Cartilage is not only found in the joints. It also can be found in your nose, windpipe, and ears. Even most of your ears and nose are made up of cartilage tissue. Therefore, it is also needed by the body to give shape – it is a mould.
Unfortunately, it is not supported by its own blood supply (unlike other tissues). For this reason, if it gets damaged, it will not heal as fast as damaged muscles or damaged skin.
Even some experts say that basically the damaged articular cartilage does not heal on its own. Tendons and bone have a good healing potential, but not for cartilage.
How to diagnose a joint cartilage injury /defect? In general, some procedures that are involved in helping to diagnose arthritis can be used.
The physician usually starts from observing the affected joint and looking for the symptoms that you have such as joint swelling, stiffness, pain, and decreased range of motion. You may also need to take several tests such as imaging tests, joint fluid analysis, or even a blood test (typically helpful to rule out other possible causes such as rheumatoid arthritis).
First, it’s so important to get a clearly diagnosis of a joint cartilage damage and make sure it is not related with the abnormality of immune system. For instance, if it is caused by rheumatoid arthritis, the use of medications to suppress immune system can be prescribed.
The severity of a joint cartilage damage also can affect the way of how the problem to treat. In mild cases, some therapies and lifestyle approaches may be helpful enough. But in severe case, surgery options are usually required.
There are several choices that may help, these include:
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Supplements containing chondroitin and glucosamine
Chondroitin and glucosamine are substances that make up your cartilage. But do they work to help build joint cartilage?
The results of studies that have analyzed the effectiveness of chondroitin and glucosamine for osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis associated with poor performance of articular cartilage) have been mixed.
While some show that chondroitin and glucosamine may help for osteoarthritis, others find no any positive effect after taking the supplement. It is not clear why these findings are different.
Chondroitin and glucosamine can be potential to interact with blood thinners. Therefore, consult first with your doctor before taking the supplement, particularly true if you are also taking other medicines.
These include taking a rest and temporarily avoid using the affected joint in your daily activities. If you are overweight, losing some pounds of your excessive weight can help reduce pressure, especially on your knee joints.
If your goal is just to keep your joint cartilage healthy or protect it from further damage, see this section for some tips that may help! Protecting your cartilage from further damage is so important since it’s not easy to build or restore the cartilage damaged, as mentioned before.
Other non-surgical treatments
- The use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may be prescribed. These painkillers can help ease pain and swelling.
- Some supportive devices are also available to help support the function of the affected articular cartilage so thus it can work easier in absorbing stress /pressure. Ask your doctor whether the use of a leg brace /cane is an option you should try.
- Physiotherapy! It can help improve the strength of muscles supporting & surrounding the affected joint. If these muscles are strong, this also can help reduce the load of pressure on your articular cartilage.
They are usually suggested for more severe cases of articular cartilage damage. For these cases, non-surgical options mentioned before may be not helpful enough or just provide a short-term relief.
Depending on the severity, the following are some common surgeries you may need to take: