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Is Cartilage Healing Possible?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 17, 2024
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Whether or not cartilage healing is possible depends mainly on the type of injury or malfunction that has taken place within a joint. In certain injuries, such as when cartilage is torn during a sporting event, some level of healing may take place, although the joint may never fully recover. In other situations, such as in patients with osteoarthritis, cartilage healing is often not possible. Patients with degenerative diseases are often left with few alternatives in repairing damage, although they may be able to prevent any further degeneration from occurring.

The human body is generally very resilient. Bones and tissues are capable of healing and regenerating themselves rather efficiently, even when a serious injury is involved. This is not normally the case with cartilage, which heals at a much slower rate than other bodily tissues.

When an injury to cartilage is caused by overuse, the joint is generally able to heal itself to some degree over time. The amount of cartilage healing that takes place mainly depends on the severity of the injury. Very severely injured joints may never fully recover. Mildly injured patients can generally expect to regain function of the joint over time.

In degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis, the cartilage is slowly destroyed at the joint. Eventually, the wear and tear is so extreme that the two conjoined bones rub directly together. This causes the trademark pain and stiffness associated with the condition. Although there are many remedies to help alleviate the pain associated with the condition, there is very little that can be done to promote full cartilage healing.

Researchers do not currently understand why cartilage doesn't seem to heal as effectively as other parts of the body. One theory is that because cartilage does not contain any blood vessels, it is not able to heal. Proper circulation within bones and tissue is an important factor in how quickly these areas will regenerate. Since cartilage does not have any amount of blood circulation, it may be inhibited from properly healing.

Another theory is that the fluid which coats cartilage may contain something that inhibits healing. Other researchers believe that the same fluid may not inhibit healing, but simply not contain the needed ingredients for proper healing. These theories have not been proven, and more research is needed to find an exact cause.

There are some emerging therapies to help promote cartilage healing. They include heat therapy and certain physical therapies. Some progress has been in made in the rejuvenation of cartilage in some patients, although these treatments won't work for everyone and they may not be covered by certain insurance plans.

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Discussion Comments

By Sporkasia — On Feb 13, 2014

There are supplements you can purchase that claim to help revitalize cartilage in knees and other joints. I know several people who take these products. Some of them say the supplements help, but they have no medical test supporting those claims, so who knows.

The majority of people I know who are taking these supplements say that they are not sure the supplements are making a difference, but they don't think the products are doing any harm, so they continue to take them just in case the items do have some benefits.

By Animandel — On Feb 12, 2014
Drentel - Attrition of the body, including the knees and the cartilage in them is a part of life. A lifetime of walking and running can lead to the wearing down of cartilage. However, these types of problems are more common in athletes. I think most of us associate bad knees with a sport like football.

The good news is there are some knee pain treatments and medical treatments in general that can significantly reduce the pain and limitations associated with cartilage injuries. However, we are still not to the point where we can make the injured area as good as new.

By Drentel — On Feb 12, 2014
I have issues with the cartilage in my knees. Right now, the biggest problems are associated with my left knee. I am pretty sure that the problems originated from playing basketball primarily, and other sports as well. As I get older, the cartilage injury is becoming more noticeable.

I had a friend who was also a basketball player and he eventually got to the point that was mentioned in the article. All of the cartilage in his knees wore away and he had bone hitting bone. At that time, he was in his 20s. I guess most people experience this to some degree, even if they never played sports.

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