Cartilage tears are a common type of joint injury, particularly in sports. It most frequently affects the cartilage in the knee, and this piece of cartilage is called the meniscus – but cartilage in the joints such as the shoulder, hip, ankle, and elbow are also often injured.
Treatment for torn cartilage depends on the extent and location of the tear. A severe tear can cause the cartilage to deteriorate over time, meaning surgery may be recommended. Torn cartilage cannot heal very well on its own, because it does not usually have its own blood supply; it must therefore be repaired.
What Is Cartilage?
Articular cartilage is the protective tissue that covers the ends of our bones in the joints. It provides a tough, shock-absorbing layer that provides cushioning between the bones, thereby facilitating smooth movement. Different types of cartilage can be found elsewhere in the body, such as the nose and ears.
The menisci in the knee are specialized cartilage structures that aid stability and act as shock absorbers to cushion the joint and protect the bones from rubbing against each other. If you suffer a torn meniscus, it can cause debilitating knee pain, swelling, stiffness, locking, or loss of function.
Treatment of Torn Cartilage
Treatment for a cartilage tear will depend on the size, location, and severity of your symptoms, as well as your age, activity level, injury type, and the overall condition of the joint. For small cartilage tears causing minor symptoms, noninvasive and holistic treatments such as the RICE method – rest, ice, compression, and elevation – are first recommended.
If the RICE method doesn’t work to relieve the pain or the disabling condition of the injured joint, then your orthopedist may recommend physical therapy and changes to your lifestyle which may be exacerbating the injury. A small torn meniscus that is damaged on the outer section of the meniscus may not require surgery, as the blood supply is better in that region and can therefore heal on its own eventually. Some tears, however, can cause the joint to become unstable, which means that surgery may be necessary.
Surgery to Repair Torn Cartilage
Arthroscopic surgery is commonly used to treat cartilage tears, such as a torn meniscus in the knee. This surgical method allows the surgeon to see, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint in a minimally invasive manner, thereby causing less trauma to the tissue and enabling quicker healing afterward. Arthroscopic surgery uses small, narrow surgical instruments that are inserted through very small incisions.
The arthroscope comprises a lens and a lighting system which has a fiber-optic camera function at the end. This allows the surgeon to view magnified, real-time images on a video screen, and to take photographs and video of the inside of the joint.
Comprehensive Orthopedic Care in North Dakota
If you have suffered a joint injury or sports injury, or if you think you may be developing arthritis, see an orthopedic expert here at The Bone & Joint Center. Our board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic doctors are skilled in making difficult diagnoses and treating many different musculoskeletal conditions, including those requiring complex treatments or therapies.
We treat patients at our many locations across the state. For more information about the services we provide or to make an appointment, call us today at (800) 424-2663 or fill out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to helping you get back to your active, pain-free lifestyle once again!