Diagnosis and Treatment of Cartilage Injuries in Wake County

What are Cartilage Injuries?

There are three types of cartilage: hyaline, elastic, and fibrocartilage. Hyaline cartilage, the most prevalent cartilage in your body, is a very smooth cartilage that can be found on the ends of bones in your joints (to prevent them from rubbing together), between rib cage bones, and even inside your nose. Damage to hyaline cartilage can happen over time with normal wear and tear, or through an impact injury. Elastic cartilage, as the name suggests, is cartilage that is more elastic. Movements and distortion of elastic cartilage will not usually damage it or cause you pain. Your outer ears and nose are made of elastic cartilage. Fibrocartilage is a strong form of cartilage found in the meniscus in the knee joint and the discs in your back. Damage to fibrocartilage can occur as a result of a knee injury that damages the meniscus, or aging that causes issues with the discs in your back. Proper treatment of cartilage injuries with help from our specialists at Raleigh Orthopaedic will ensure that you can get right back to living and moving comfortably.

What Causes Cartilage Injuries?

Cartilage injuries can occur for a number of reasons. Regular wear and tear of articular (hyaline, joint cartilage) occurs with repeated movements during any activity, including sports or during work. Cartilage damage may accrue over time in the natural process of aging and can be exacerbated by being overweight and/or having a family history of issues that might promote cartilage injury, including diseases or faulty bone placement. Impacts during sports or accidents such as falls can cause damage to cartilage, including the elastic cartilage of your ears and nose and the fibrocartilage (meniscus) in your knees.

Cartilage Injury Risk Factors

Risk factors for cartilage injuries include a family history of genetic abnormalities or diseases that cause cartilage issues, being overweight, being of advanced age, and participating in sports or other activities that require repetitive motions.

Symptoms of Cartilage Injuries

There are several symptoms you may experience that indicate the presence of a cartilage injury. If you are experiencing orthopedic pain accompanied by some or all of the symptoms listed here, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist at Raleigh Orthopaedic. We will work to find the cause of your pain and get you on the path to relief. If you have a cartilage injury, you may experience:

  • Pain at the site of the injury, such as in the joint
  • Swelling in the affected area
  • Grinding or popping noises within the affected joint
  • Stiffness in the joint
  • Reduced range of motion and locking in the joint

How are Cartilage Injuries Diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will likely start by asking for your medical history and your symptoms, as well as when they started. and what makes them better or worse. Next, a physical examination may be conducted to determine if you have signs of a suspected cartilage injury. Imaging tests can then be used to get a look at the damage up close. Diagnostic tests for cartilage injuries include MRIs and X-rays.

Treatment Options for Cartilage Injuries at Raleigh Orthopaedic

Nonsurgical Treatment

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Cartilage injuries may heal on their own or may require surgery. Nonsurgical treatments are generally used to relieve pain and other symptoms while slowing further degeneration of the cartilage. The exact treatment method utilized will depend on the extent of your injury and how much it is affecting your daily life. Nonsurgical treatment methods your doctor may suggest include:

  • Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief
  • Bracing the affected joint
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections

Surgical Treatment Options

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Surgery for cartilage injuries is necessary in some cases, since it is unlikely that cartilage will heal on its own once it has been damaged. If surgery is required, the surgery is often arthroscopic in nature. Depending on the damage, your surgeon may elect to shave your cartilage to improve function or to stitch it together to allow it to heal. Since cartilage does not receive direct blood flow, it takes more time to heal. If surgery is recommended for your cartilage injury, the members of our team at Raleigh Orthopaedic will ensure that you understand your surgical options and recovery, and that all of your questions are answered every step of the way.

Cartilage Injuries Recovery Time

Recovery from cartilage injuries varies depending on the treatment and type of cartilage you have injured. If you receive surgery to repair the meniscus of the knee, for example, your injury may take up to five months to heal fully. A herniated disc, when treated nonsurgically, may heal after several months or sooner, depending on your age, general health, and amount of physical activity. Your doctor will be able to provide you with a specific recovery timeline and instructions based on your unique injury and the treatment methods utilized.

How Can I Prevent Cartilage Injuries?

Prevention of cartilage injuries may not be possible in all cases, since they can occur as a result of the natural aging process, accidents, or genetic issues that cause cartilage problems. However, both strengthening the muscles surrounding your joints and stretching can promote joint stability that may help you avoid cartilage injuries. It is also helpful to avoid abrupt changes in the intensity of your physical activity and warm up before participating in athletic activities. Exercising regularly can also serve to build up your endurance and stamina and support cartilage health.

Expert Sports Medicine Care at Raleigh Orthopaedic

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For over 100 years, we have served patients in Wake County and provided the highest level of orthopedic care. The members of our team provide comprehensive care focused on a wide range of service areas and specialties, including sports medicine care in Wake County. We make it easy for athletes in the Triangle area to get access to comprehensive care – to schedule an appointment at the Raleigh Orthopaedic location nearest you, please give us a call or book an appointment online today!