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What are Some Treatments for Torn Cartilage?

By J. Beam
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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Treatment for torn cartilage varies with the type of cartilage that has been torn and the extent of the injury. In many cases, treatment is acute and includes ice therapy, rest, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. In other cases, surgery to repair or remove the damaged cartilage may be necessary. The approach for treatment may be progressive depending on the cause as well.

Cartilage is the flexible material between the bones of the body’s joints. The most common site of torn cartilage is the knee. However, the cartilage in the hip, elbow, shoulder, and ankle can also be injured. Damaged cartilage is the result either of injury or trauma or of natural degeneration. Athletes are prone to suffer from torn cartilage, and the risk of injury or damage to the cartilage is increased in older people.

Cartilage lacks a constant blood supply, which makes healing difficult, but in some cases, the cells can repair themselves. When a doctor determines that an individual has injured or torn the cartilage, he or she may recommend ice therapy to reduce swelling and an anti-inflammatory pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, combined with rest. If the extent of the tear is severe enough, surgery may be necessary. Surgery options can involve repair or removal, though removal is more common. In instances in which the cartilage may tear completely away from the bone and become free-floating, causing painful interference with joint function, the torn cartilage can be surgically removed.

Symptoms that might result from torn cartilage include swelling in the affected area and localized pain or discomfort. A doctor makes a diagnosis of torn cartilage by taking a medical history and evaluating any specific injury or trauma, completing a physical examination, and sometimes ordering an imaging diagnostic test. If acute treatment and physical therapy fail, or if an injury becomes re-aggravated, surgery might become necessary.

If you are experiencing joint pain, swelling, and discomfort and believe it to be caused by an injury, you should see your doctor. If you have not experienced any injury that might account for your pain, it may be caused by an underlying problem, and you should ask your doctor for a referral to an orthopedic specialist.

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Discussion Comments
By Noussa — On Dec 06, 2011

I'm 36 and female. I twisted my knee exactly 3 1/2 months ago. I've been to two different docs. I've had an MRI and they told me my ligament is torn and stretched out and I also tore my cartilage.

I've taken anti-inflammatory meds and some other medication that helps repair cartilage damage. Anyhow, is it normal to still feel stiffness, pain and slight instability in my knee 3 1/2 months after the injury?

By anon158791 — On Mar 08, 2011

I've had the cartilage in both knees injured/torn at different periods in my life and in both cases therapy with yogic lotus posture has done wonders, returning mobility from about 50-60 percent to about 95-98 percent.

Both injuries have not healed completely, and are still prone to pain sometimes, but the improvement in mobility is obvious. Also, when the pain aggravates (due to joint use mostly) leg stretching (especially back of the knee) in combination with lotus posture fixes it most of the time.

By anon133358 — On Dec 10, 2010

after feeling like i would never walk normally again, i finally had a MRI scan on my knee and they found a torn cartilage, and now six months of waiting for an operation which is due in January. i have no pain. i can't do the lotus position as it hurts. but want to know does the knee cartilage mend itself.

By anon126781 — On Nov 13, 2010

I'm 16 years old. I play basketball, softball, and i run track, and i tore my cartilage, and i broke a bone in my ankle. Will i ever be able to play either again?

By anon121841 — On Oct 25, 2010

I was in a race about two months ago and thought I just had a knee sprain. I had an x ray and an mri and found out that I have torn cartilage. I don't want to have surgery. Is there another way to get this repaired. --ALB

By anon108394 — On Sep 02, 2010

I am 16 years old and have recently undergone surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in my knee. I tore the cartilage doing long jump. I was able to limp only for a week after and after about a month i was able to walk without any discomfort. However i couldn't run.

Going to an orthopedic surgeon is the best option in this case. He was able to repair the tear but its still a 50-50 chance that it will actually heal. The younger you get this done the better the chances. So if you think you have torn cartilage, get it checked out as soon as possible.

By anon101601 — On Aug 04, 2010

I'm a 44 year old woman who took a hard fall six weeks ago. I didn't see the doctor but now my husband is sure it is torn cartilage and that i probably need surgery. The problem is i just got a great job offer, a once in a lifetime thing and the guy will hire someone else for sure if i have surgery. can i postpone this if that's what it is, for like a year or more?

By anon101247 — On Aug 02, 2010

If a 12 year old, turning 13 girl was playing lacrosse at a camp (at a college) and then rolled both of her ankles on the first day and didn't do anything about it (kept running and walking on it) then a year later finds out she might have a torn cartilage. What are possible treatments?

By ridhwan13 — On Jun 16, 2010

I am 20 years old, and about five months ago i fell awkwardly on my left knee when changing direction while playing soccer. I had an x ray done and an MRI scan both seemed OK. After the injury i was able to limp and a month later walk, but with some discomfort.

The doctor said to rest and it's just a knee sprain; it should be OK. But it now been five months and my knee still hurts when i try to straighten it or bend it completely and every time i try to do so there is some weird clicking sound.

I haven't played any physical sports since the injury and it's really depressing me. Can anyone please tell me what i can do to recover or what exactly is wrong with my knee? Please help. ridhwan 13

By anon87357 — On May 29, 2010

I am an 18 year old female, and June 2010 will be three years since I have injured my ankle. I was playing church softball one night, and when I was running, I stopped to turn the other direction when my ankle turned.

I went to the doctor the next day and I found out that I had torn one of the ligaments in my ankle. I went through four months of physical therapy, and I had little/no change. I then was sent to an orthopedist who recommended an MRI. After that she said that I needed arthroscopic surgery.

At that time she didn't know I had torn cartilage, she actually thought something else was wrong. It wasn't until during the surgery that she found out that I had torn ligaments and torn cartilage. I went through many months of physical therapy to rehab it back. I even got back to playing tennis.

My problem is that even two-years plus after surgery, my ankle still hurts. My physical therapist recently diagnosed me as having arthritis starting to develop in it now. Now I am 18 years old and I am worried that as I get older the ankle problems and pain will only worsen. Is there anybody that can relate to me? Thanks!

By anon82798 — On May 07, 2010

lauraMMMMM: I can tell you that people who do get the surgery usually have to retire from running. I use DMSO and aloe cream applied topically and changed to vibram 5 fingers running shoes, and I can still run despite having had bad knees for year, including cartilage issues.

By anon81465 — On May 01, 2010

This is laurammm - I posted my torn cartilage question over a year ago, and opted not to do surgery. I am running and exercising again and am having no problems! Not that this is good for everyone, but glad I didn't go through with it.

It seems that knee surgeries are like potato chips -- you can't just have one! Anyway, good luck everyone!

By anon80884 — On Apr 29, 2010

to laurammm: I am waiting for my torn cartilage to repair itself,don't know if it can, but after two months my knee is getting better.

The doc said for me to have it fixed, but I would rather not have the OP! I have no pain except the swelling and stiffness. Does anyone out there think I am only delaying the inevitable OP?

By anon68802 — On Mar 04, 2010

I have a torn cartilage in my knee. It has gotten better with time,i have had one injection and doing okay. I'm going to wait it out because it is better than five months ago. I have ordered an ultrasound hand held machine approved by the fda. It has helped me and also a warm knee wrap from my mend shop. Check it out on the internet.

By anon68296 — On Mar 01, 2010

My son was just diagnosed with crushed cartilage in his foot from an injury several months back. The doctor does not recommend surgery and only offered an anti-inflammatory drug for pain.

Has anyone heard of this and do you know why this can't be repaired? Help please.

By katiekins — On Nov 17, 2009

a few months ago i badly twisted my ankle while i was walking and had a huge swollen ankle for up to two or three weeks, and black and blue for most of the time. it has been almost four months since then and even now if i stand on my feet for a few hours or even an hour, the same ankle tends to swell up ( not as big as when i twisted it) but almost as big and sometimes a little bruised. it caused me a lot of pain when I'm on my feet for work for long hours and sometimes when I'm standing still, my ankle feels like it pops when i move it slightly to the side. Does anyone know what this could be? the doctor told me when i twisted it that it was probably just a stretched tendon but its still bothering me four months later. Help!

By anon50470 — On Oct 28, 2009

I'm a fifteen year old girl. I tore the cartilage in my ankle and slightly damaged my achilles tendon.It's the second time I've done this in the same area. I also happen to be quite a developed ballerina. The doctor recommended surgery. Would that have the best outcome for my dancing?

By heathr — On May 29, 2009

I wanted to reply to laura. My doc advised me not to have surgery (on my foot). I've gotten new orthotics from a specialist and wear them indoors in flat runners with a square heel. (no heels) I build up tolerance by adding more time in them daily. I am also slowly building up time on a treadmill on a flat position. (i was told every where else isn't flat and this is the best way to go). I have a couple of strengthening exercises to do daily as well. All of it is a very slow process. My doc (soft tissue specialist) said that surgery doesn't guarantee it all better, it can make it worse and there's also scar tissue which can cause new problems. I use a bench in the bath to sit on and have a bar attached to the outside of the tub (it's easily added or removed). I put cold water in the tub to help combat the swelling. I try to keep my foot up as much as possible. I'm currently taking Lyrica and Ibuprofen in the off hours.

Please let me know if this helps and what you are doing to help yourself.

By anon24317 — On Jan 10, 2009

i recently was playing soccer barefoot and kicked my heel. Had a massive bruise over my big toe area. Doctor said i have torn cartilage and a slightly damaged tendon. So yes, dropping something like that on your foot can cause it, especially in older people.

By laurammm — On Aug 26, 2008

Has anyone opted *not* to repair torn cartilage? If so, why did you opt out and has is your knee now? Have you resumed to your normal activities? I have surgery scheduled and dreading it and don't want to damage my knee more....

By anon3326 — On Aug 23, 2007

if a woman in her late 40's drop something on her foot, can that cause torn cartilage? Talking about canned fruit, less than 1 pound.

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