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.