Cartilage damage

Cartilage damage is a common injury that can occur to any individual. Most cases typically involve the knee joint. Generally, the symptoms of cartilage damage include joint pain, swelling, stiffness and diminished range of movement in the affected joint.

What is cartilage?

Cartilage is a flexible yet tough tissue present all over the body. It covers the joint surfaces so that the bones can slide over one another while minimizing friction and preventing any damage. Furthermore, it also helps support the weight when moving, stretching, bending and running.

The flexible and tough nature of the cartilage tissue is responsible for creating shaped and curved body parts that would otherwise have no support from the bones. Take note that the nose and exterior part of the ears include cartilage tissue.

Cartilage does not have its own supply of blood. As a result, once there is damage to the cartilage, it is not capable of healing quickly just like the muscles and skin.

What are the types?

cartilage damage

The knee joint is commonly injured with symptoms of cartilage damage that includes joint pain, swelling, stiffness and diminished range of movement in the affected joint.

The three types of cartilage include hyaline cartilage, elastic cartilage and fibrocartilage.

  • Hyaline cartilage or articular cartilage is tough yet elastic. It is present around the windpipe, between the joints and between the ribs.
  • Elastic cartilage is highly elastic and supple. It comprises the exterior part of the ears, parts of the nose and epiglottis.
  • Fibrocartilage is the most durable cartilage and capable of withstanding a great deal of weight. It is present between the discs of the spine as well as between the bones of the pelvis and hips.

What are the types of cartilage damage?

Always bear in mind that the 3 types of cartilage prone to damage. If the ear sustains damage which is an elastic cartilage, it can deform its appearance. This condition is quite common among those who play rugby which is a cauliflower ear.

The fibrocartilage present in between the discs in the back is prone to damage, thus resulting to a slipped disc.

The articular cartilage present in a joint is one of the serious types of cartilage damage that can occur. The damage can result to swelling, pain and a certain degree of mobility loss. There are 3 ways in which damage occurs in the articular cartilage.

  • Lasting damage due to wear and tear
  • Small segment of cartilage and bone piece attached to it detaches away from the joint
  • Sudden injury to the cartilage such as landing especially during falls and landing on the knees


For the non-surgical treatment on minor to moderate cases, it includes the intake of NSAIDs and physiotherapy. The pain associated with cartilage damage can be treated with pain relief measures that you can learn in a first aid course.

Serious cases would require surgery. Take note that there are several surgical techniques performed such as promoting growth of new cartilage or replacing the damaged cartilage using a healthy piece. In most serious cases, the whole joint might be replaced with an artificial joint.

Who are at risk?

Cartilage damage by accident is quite common among individuals below 35 years old. This is due to the fact that this group usually engages in sports where the risk for injury is high.


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