As we get older, joint pain starts to become a growing fact of life. Activities that were once simple and basic, from shopping to getting dressed to jogging or doing yard work, can become more and more difficult. However, it’s important to understand that giving up and adopting a sedentary lifestyle can accelerate joint damage and weaken key supporting structures.
A major source of and contributor to joint pain is articular cartilage damage. Our articular cartilage surrounds the endings of our bones, forming a key protective layer that enables smooth motion and protects our bones from friction. One of the primary causes of articular cartilage damage is injury to the joints, especially the knee joint and hip joint.
Injuries, especially if they are not treated properly, can accelerate natural degeneration of articular joint cartilage and amplify the effects of daily wear and tear. This can lead to a form of arthritis known as post-traumatic arthritis that causes inflammation in the joints and serious damage to the knee joint.
By learning more about how to recognize the presence of articular cartilage damage and seek appropriate treatment, you can give yourself the best chance of finding long-term relief and maintaining an active lifestyle. The team at Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America (OJRCA) is here to help and we’re happy to answer any questions you have about the following information.
Symptoms of Articular Cartilage Damage
Articular cartilage damage is not necessarily always painful or symptomatic on its own, and symptoms can wax and wane. However, due to both its association with injury and its role as a contributor to joint inflammation and arthritis, people with articular cartilage damage often report the following symptoms:
- Knee joint pain
- Hip joint pain
- Stiffness and reduced range of motion
- Popping and grinding sensations
- Feelings of the affected joint locking or seizing up
Diagnosing Articular Cartilage Damage
Patients experiencing symptoms and joint pain potentially related to articular cartilage damage should see a qualified medical professional, such as their primary physician, for diagnosis. Attempting to self-diagnose and treat any source of pain is strongly discouraged, as medical professionals can pinpoint the source of symptoms and rule out potentially serious conditions.
Typically, a physician diagnoses articular cartilage damage through the following steps:
- A thorough discussion and review of health history, including family history of joint pain and arthritis
- Questions and answers about symptoms, their causes and how they are affecting quality of life
- A physical examination that includes palpation of the painful joint and movement tests
- Diagnostic testing, frequently an MRI, to confirm diagnosis of articular joint damage and rule out other causes of joint pain
Upon diagnosis, you and your doctor can work together to develop a treatment plan based on your condition and goals for relief.
Treatment Options for Articular Cartilage Damage
Patients diagnosed with articular cartilage damage as the source of pain and dysfunction can often find relief pursuing conservative treatment. Effective therapies include:
- Resting the affected joint to reduce stress
- Using cold therapy, such as an ice pack, to reduce inflammation
- Using heat therapy, such as a heating pad, to relax stiff muscles and joints and improve circulation
- Taking over-the-counter medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Physical therapy, to help improve range of motion and increase stability and strength in the affected joint
- Pain-relieving steroid injections can help relieve pain and inflammation for a period of weeks or longer
- Regenerative injections, including amniotic injections, viscosupplementation and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections can help promote the body’s natural ability to improve joint function by using natural tissue, including bone marrow
- Activity modification for job functions and at-home tasks to reduce strain on the joints
- Good nutrition and regular exercise to promote overall health and joint health
While no one can turn back the clock on our natural aging process, it is possible for many patients to enjoy a good quality of life with articular cartilage damage.
When to Consider Joint Replacement Surgery
For any case of articular cartilage damage related to wear and tear, injury or aging, surgery is usually seen as a last resort treatment method. But if patients have fully attempted a course of conservative therapy, activity modification and lifestyle changes without achieving the relief and function necessary to enjoy daily activities, joint replacement surgery may represent the best course of action
In these situations, knee replacement surgery or hip replacement surgery may be recommended in cases where there is knee joint damage or hip joint damage. For these procedures, the primary objective is to remove the damaged joint surfaces and replace them with implants designed to provide stability and range of motion in the affected joint.
The highly experienced OJRCA surgical team performs partial knee joint replacement if damage is limited to a particular compartment of the knee joint. Alternately, total knee joint replacement may be recommended in cases of widespread joint damage due to arthritis or injury. In cases where articular cartilage damage in the hip is causing extensive joint damage and dysfunction in the hip joint, our team can perform a total hip joint replacement. Our expert medical professionals will ensure a comprehensive evaluation to determine the best course of surgical treatment.
Outpatient Joint Replacement Surgery
Due to the advancement of minimally invasive techniques that spare tissue and use smaller incisions, outpatient knee replacement surgery and hip replacement surgery are now possible. The OJRCA surgical method combines minimally invasive techniques and an advanced, proprietary pain protocol designed to have you up and moving quicker. This promotes a faster recovery and less difficult rehabilitation period.
Even if an inpatient hospital procedure is required due to a pre-existing medical condition or other health factors, these joint replacement surgery techniques contribute to a shorter recovery and less difficulty after the operation.
OJRCA Can Help You Find Relief from Articular Cartilage Damage
Board-certified orthopedic surgeon and Medical Director, Dr. Philip Clifford, and the entire OJRCA team are passionate about delivering exceptional patient care. If you’re living with a diminished quality of life and pain due to wear and tear from articular cartilage damage, we can help you develop an effective treatment plan, including outpatient joint replacement surgery.
To find out how we can help you achieve lasting relief and improved function, contact OJRCA today.