Cartilage damage is a typical form of injury. It usually affects the knees, although other joints might also be affected. Minor cartilage injuries may heal by themselves within a few weeks, but severe cartilage damage may need surgery.


Patients who have cartilage damage in their joints (also known as articular cartilage injury) will have the following symptoms:

  • Range restriction – As the injury continues, the injured limb will be less able to move freely and effortlessly.
  • Inflammation – The affected area swells, gets warmer than other body areas and becomes uncomfortable, sensitive, and sore.
  • Stiffness

Articular cartilage damage most usually affects the knee, although it can also influence the shoulder, hip joint, ankle, elbow, and wrist.

A portion of cartilage may break off in extreme situations, causing the joint to become locked. This may result in hemarthrosis (joint bleeding); the affected region may become bruised and blotchy.


It is difficult to distinguish between cartilage damage in the knee and a sprain since the symptoms might be identical. Modern non-invasive diagnostics, on the other hand, make the task considerably simpler than it used to be.

Following a physical exam, a medical professional may request the following tests for diagnosis:

  • Arthroscopy – A tube-like device (arthroscope) is inserted to check and repair a joint. This method may aid in determining the degree of cartilage damage.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – The technology employs a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed photographs of the body. An MRI, although beneficial, cannot always reveal cartilage damage.


Conservative therapy (non-surgical) – certain individuals react well to conservative treatment, which may involve specialized exercises, NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines), and, in certain cases, steroid injections.

Physical therapy or a program that the patient may undertake at home are examples of exercises. If the damage is minor, this might be all that is required.

Surgery is required for individuals who do not respond to conservative therapy. Numerous surgical alternatives are available based on various parameters such as the patient’s age and activity level, the size of the lesion, and how long ago the damage occurred.

Surgical alternatives include:

  • Autologous chondrocyte implantation
  • Debridement
  • Marrow stimulation
  • Mosaicplasty

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