Table of Contents
Don’t you just love the human body? (Or is it just me that does?!)
I seriously find the human body remarkable, with its ability to move and bend in innumerable ways (to a limit, of course.)
We don’t want to overdo the work on our knees, let’s say, and cause injury – a meniscus tear being one of them.
But how exactly does it do this?
What I mean is – how does the body move with such fluidity?
The answer lies in synovial fluid and cartilage.
Think of synovial fluid as a jelly-like substance that cushions the bones of our joints. On the other hand, cartilage is a strong, flexible connective tissue that protects the bony surfaces of our joints.
Unfortunately, when cartilage breaks down due to wear and tear or injury, it causes pain, tenderness, stiffness, and problems moving the affected joints.
This condition is known as cartilage loss. But how do you lose cartilage in your knee?
Knee osteoarthritis is a more generally known condition that happens from chronically damaged cartilage.
How do you lose cartilage in your knee?
In this post, I’ll share what cartilage is and what it does for our bodies. You’ll learn the leading causes of cartilage loss and the symptoms you may experience if this happens to you.
What is Cartilage? What Does It Do?
Cartilage is a type of connective tissue that is found in all joints of the body. It plays an essential role in helping to keep joints mobile.
Without it, joint movement would be very painful.
Cartilage cushions bones and joints, enabling them to move smoothly while protecting them from damage and injury.
But what is cartilage actually made from?
Cartilage is comprised of chondrocytes, which are a type of cell, surrounded by a matrix of collagen and platelet-rich plasma.
The cartilage found in joints is often called ‘hyaline cartilage,’ which has that renowned white, transparent, and shiny look.
In addition to cushioning joints, cartilage helps to keep joints stable.
Due to aging, cartilage degrades on its own given time, even if you’re not that active or sporty.
This is why older patients frequently suffer from cartilage issues and joint pain.
It’s just the way of joints!
The thing to understand is cartilage loss is usually detrimental to one’s quality of life if left untreated – causing pain, tenderness, stiffness, and difficulties with movement.
If you’re reading this and you worry there may be damage to the cartilage in your joints, speak with your healthcare provider and get a physical examination done first and foremost.
Your doctor will likely request scans such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess the joint before recommending treatment options.
What Is Cartilage Loss
Cartilage loss is a condition that affects the joints of the body, leading to reduced mobility, pain, stiffness, tenderness, and complications with mobility.
Aging, sports injuries, and/or other health conditions such as osteoarthritis can all contribute to cartilage loss, as can the individual’s activity level(s).
The most commonly affected areas of cartilage loss are in the knees, hips, shoulders, and ankles.
And now for some good news!
Several remedies are available for cartilage loss, from conservative treatment to invasive treatment and/or surgical treatment if required.
The best treatment option is always down to individual preference and the guidance of an orthopedic surgeon and primary care provider.
Physical therapy is oftentimes recommended to increase joint flexibility and strength, particularly in the case of knee pain and associated cartilage loss.
Allowing adequate rest time gives joints time to recover (somewhat), too and reduces the likelihood of widespread cartilage damage.
It’s a delicate balance between suitable rehabilitation-type exercises and rest time.
So often an individual may want to work out more, but in terms of loss of cartilage, rest is more important than anything else.
A physical therapist can instruct you with suitable home exercises if this suits you, helping you resume daily activities as soon as reasonably possible.
The thing to know is once cartilage is gone – it’s gone.
Sadly, it doesn’t ‘regrow,’ but you can help maintain the cartilage you have by resting as much as possible and doing appropriate physical exercises.
Anti-inflammatory medications, too, can help reduce swelling and pain, while cortisone injections could relieve inflammation in more severe cases. It is of note that cortisone injections are only a temporary solution to the underlying problem.
Surgery like an arthroscopy or joint replacement may be necessary in cases where more aggressive measures are required – this could involve replacing worn-out tissue with fresh material sourced elsewhere in the body or via a donor source.
Always take the advice of your healthcare provider when dealing with cartilage loss so they can help you best, ensuring you’ll receive the highest standard of care for your condition.
To finish, the common causes of cartilage loss in the knee joint are:
● Aging and age-related changes
● A heavily active lifestyle
● Rheumatoid arthritis
● Growth factors and genetics
● Weight gain
● Soft tissue damage to the knee joint
● A loose body or foreign body/puncture wound
● Bone spurs
If you suspect you have knee cartilage damage, the most important thing is to get it diagnosed first.
Your range of motion will likely be assessed.
Perhaps you’ll have some tests or scans to see inside of the knee joint.
You’ll likely be referred to an orthopedic surgeon who can discuss the topics of joint injections and/or other knee procedures.
It all depends on the types of cartilage affected, your medical history, and whether invasive treatments are required or perhaps to first try conservative treatments.
I hope you found this post valuable and insightful.
If you’d like to read more of my posts, I recommend these ones next.