The Role of Cartilage in Your Body

The Role of Cartilage in Your Body

Suppose you have knee, wrist, hip, or other joint pain. It may be from damaged or torn cartilage. Cartilage is strong, fibrous tissue that you have in many places in your body. Articular and fibrous cartilage help your joints function normally. 

If cartilage around a joint is damaged from wear and tear due to aging or trauma from an accident, you’ll have restricted movement and mobility in that joint. Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons at Coastal Empire Orthopedics are the experts to see when you have pain in soft tissue or a joint. They provide prompt diagnosis and treatment for damaged and torn cartilage to get you back in the game as soon as it’s safely possible. 

Role of hyaline cartilage

Hyaline cartilage, also called articular cartilage, covers the bones in your joints where the bones meet. Cartilage is the reason your knee joint moves so smoothly when it’s functioning normally. This cartilage is very smooth, allowing your bones to work very closely together, yet separated by the cartilage. 

Think about what happens when you walk, jog, dance, garden, or play tennis. Your knee joint must bend and be flexible yet strong to allow movement and support you. A strong layer of cartilage in your knee joint provides separation and a protective cushion between your thigh bone, extending to the top of your knee, and your tibia, the bone from your knee to your ankle. 

Without that cartilage, your bones would rub together, creating extreme pain. So your articular cartilage allows ease of movement when you bend your joint and protects you from adjacent bones rubbing together. 

In smaller joints such as the wrist, the layer of articular cartilage is as thin as one millimeter, whereas in larger joints like the knee joint, the cartilage may be 6 millimeters thick. 

Articular cartilage contains synovial fluid, a substance that acts as a moisturizer to your joint. Whenever you move, the fluid disperses through the joint, helping it remain flexible. 

Fibrous cartilage 

Fibrous cartilage bands called menisci surround your shinbone. The bands are shaped like the letter ‘C’ around the outside of the bones. This type of cartilage also acts as a shock absorber like articular cartilage. It helps disperse the heavy load of the weight of your upper body.

Tearing a meniscus is a common sports injury, but it can also easily happen from suddenly pivoting while dancing or moving to a standing position after gardening. Meniscus tears can also occur from wear and tear from normal aging. 

Why medical attention is needed for damaged cartilage

Cartilage is natural protection for your bones, but it often doesn’t heal as well as a cut on your skin when it’s damaged. That’s because it doesn’t have any blood vessels carrying nutrients to help heal it. Cartilage cells don’t usually replicate on their own. Without proper treatment, you could increase the damage to your cartilage, creating more discomfort. 

Treatment for damaged cartilage

For a mild cartilage injury, your physician likely recommends the RICE method to calm swelling and inflammation so you don’t cause further injury to yourself. If the injury is more severe and you have torn cartilage, your doctor may recommend minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery to repair it. 

Call Coastal Empire Orthopedics or book an appointment online today if you have soft tissue or joint pain. 

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