Healthy cartilage is critical to your ability to move.
Articular cartilage is the flexible, rubbery tissue that covers the end of long bones and cushions areas where bones meet. This cartilage may become damaged due to trauma, wear-and-tear arthritis, and repetitive strain. Joints anywhere in the body may be affected, but the most common sites of cartilage damage are the knee, hip, and shoulder.
Damage to cartilage often requires medical intervention. Unlike other tissue in the body, cartilage cannot repair or replace its own damaged tissue because it lacks blood vessels, which provide oxygen and nutrients that promote healing.
Minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery is often used to remove or repair torn cartilage. In some cases, healthy cartilage cells may be surgically implanted into the area. PRP therapy and stem cell therapy have also shown promise in helping to alleviate pain and stabilize joints in which cartilage damage has occurred.
Signs & Symptoms of Cartilage Damage
Symptoms of a cartilage tear injury include:
- Popping sensation at initial injury
- Join pain
- Joint stiffness
- Inability to fully straighten joint
- Pain that subsides with rest, but reappears with activity
- Grating sensation or clicking sound with joint movement
- Joint may lock or give way when bearing weight
Common Cartilage Tears
Some joints in the body are more prone to cartilage damage than others, including:
There is a special type of cartilage called a labrum that lines the rim of your hip socket. It not only cushions the hip joint, but also helps to secure the ball of your upper thighbone within the socket.
Trauma or any activity involving repetitive twisting-at-the-hip movement, as in golf and baseball, can lead to damage of the hip labrum. In addition, congenital hip abnormalities can speed the wear and tear of the cartilage, increasing the risk of a labral tear.
The test commonly used to diagnose a labral tear at the hip is the FABER test, in which your doctor will move your hip and leg into various positions – flexion, abduction, and external rotation – to evaluate your range of motion and to identify where and when any hip pain occurs.
Often, rest, medication, injections, and physical therapy can alleviate your symptoms and may be preferred over surgery. However, if not properly treated, long-term problems can develop such as arthritis in the affected hip joint.
A shoulder labrum is a special type of cartilage that lines the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder joint. This cartilage cushions the joint. The muscles of the rotator cuff help keep the ball secured within the socket (called the glenoid socket) and mobile, allowing your arm to move in all directions.
Because the shoulder labrum is thinner than the labrum found at the hip, the shoulder is much more susceptible to labral tears than the hip.
The most common types of labral injuries of the shoulder include:
- SLAP (superior labrum, anterior to posterior) tears – SLAP tears are common among athletes who perform repeated overhead motions with their arms. The damage of a SLAP tear occurs in the upper area of the socket.
- Bankart tears – This type of labral tear is common among those who have suffered a shoulder dislocation. The damage of a Bankart tear occurs in the lower half of the socket.
Shoulder labral tears often occur in conjunction with other injuries at the shoulder joint, including rotator cuff tendonitis and a torn biceps tendon.
Cartilage tears are one of the most common causes of knee pain. Athletes and active adults are particularly susceptible to cartilage tears in the knee.
A torn meniscus is a very common knee injury that typically occurs after a sharp twist of the knee such as during sudden stops and turns in sports such as soccer, football, tennis, basketball, and more.
The meniscus is different than articular cartilage, the type attached to the end of bones. Each knee has two menisci, which are C-shaped pieces of cartilage that cushion where the shinbone and thighbone overlap.
If a meniscus tear is not treated, a piece of the meniscus may become loose within the knee, causing the knee to lock. The tear itself may worsen, causing the joint to become unstable, which in turn can result in more pain as well as the development of arthritis in the joint.
Treatment will depend on where on the meniscus damage has occurred. The outside area (“red zone”) has access to a nutrient-rich blood supply indicating it may heal on its own, without the need for surgery. “White zone” areas of the meniscus lack access to blood; these injuries are often due to wear-and-tear over time and require surgery.
Suffering From Joint Pain? Call Our Orthopedic Specialists Today!
Are you suffering from lingering joint pain, especially after an injury to the area? You may have damaged the cartilage that allows you to move about, pain-free. Call the orthopedic specialists at the Joint Replacement Institute in Naples, Florida, for an accurate diagnosis and to find out what your treatment options are. Call us at (239) 261-2663 or request an appointment now.