When knee cartilage is damaged, it can set the stage for further deterioration and complete destruction of the knee. If the problem is identified earlier, there may be several strategies available to preserve the remaining cartilage and integrity of the knee joint.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have long been associated with reducing joint pain and rebuilding cartilage. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that either supplement is genuinely better than placebo. Since some people believe the supplements help, it is worth the effort to try them. Both supplements are considered safe for long-term use and may be used instead of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to see if they reduce pain. If you choose to try either or both supplements, you will need to take them consistently for several months before you can determine if they are effective. It is also possible that these supplements might reduce the rate at which cartilage is lost, thereby delaying further damage.
Use Injectable Treatments
Two injectable forms of treatment to help with cartilage damage are corticosteroids and hyaluronate injections. Corticosteroids can be administered as oral medication, but the injectable form is preferred if you are only having problems with a single joint. The injection is typically administered in combination with a short-term local anesthetic, which can relieve pain quickly. Once the corticosteroid takes effect, within the next day or two, you will generally feel a significant reduction in pain and inflammation. With mild or moderate cartilage damage, you may only need an injection when your pain is at its worse, such as a couple times per year. Hyaluronate injections are generally used when cartilage degeneration is more advanced and the goal is to avoid a knee replacement or other major knee surgery. The product in hyaluronate injections acts as a lubricant to help the joint move freely, which reduces pain.
Consider Cartilage Surgery
In some cases, cartilage may be replaced or repaired surgically. Many of these procedures can be performed with the use of an arthroscope, which avoids a large incision and lengthy recovery time. A surgeon may recommend a procedure that uses your own cartilage cells to grow a graft. Once the cells are harvested, they are grown in the laboratory and transplanted to the appropriate area of the knee. When successful, the new cells grow and replace the damaged cartilage. In other cases, your own cartilage or donated (cadaveric) cartilage might be used to replace the damaged area. Whenever possible, it is ideal to use your own cartilage to reduce the risk of rejection. Finding ways to replace damaged cartilage is ideal, especially in younger patients, to minimize long-term knee damage and to potentially avoid a knee replacement in the future.
During the earlier stages of cartilage damage, there are more options to reduce further knee damage. Taking action early can possibly prevent or delay a knee replacement later in life. Contact a clinic, like Omaha Orthopedic Clinic & Sports Medicine PC, for more help.