One of the most common conditions necessitating a visit to an orthopedic physician is due to articular cartilage damage. Articular cartilage is the smooth, firm tissue that covers the ends of bones in body joints. It reduces friction, acting as a “shock absorber” for the joint. When cartilage becomes damaged, there are movement limitations and significant pain.
What causes it?
The most common causes of articular cartilage damage are degenerative diseases such as arthritis and osteoarthritis. Others include a traumatic event (such as a car accident) or overuse/repetitive motion (as in sports). Cartilage issues can be congenital as well, where defects in joint structure are present at birth.
How do you know you have it?
Articular cartilage damage is characterized by:
- Range of motion limitations
How we fix it
The OSI sports medicine team is here to examine you for signs and symptoms of cartilage issues. The following are used to determine the extent of the injury or defect and the best course of care:
- Physical exam: Your doctor will begin with a thorough consultation to understand your symptoms and any factors contributing to your pain, followed by a full physical examination.
- MRI: An MRI is typically the most effective method to assess the severity and location articular cartilage damage.
Less severe cases of cartilage damage can be managed with nonsurgical interventions:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy
More severe cases of cartilage damage can result in surgical intervention to reduce symptoms, often an arthroscopic procedure to remove pieces of cartilage and any loose fragments that are floating within the joint. Other procedures may require larger, open incisions so the surgeon has more direct access to the area.