Cartilage damage is a relatively common type of injury. It often involves the knees, although joints such as the hips, ankles and elbows can also be affected.
Cartilage is a tough, flexible tissue found throughout the body. It covers the surface of joints, acting as a shock absorber and allowing bones to slide over one another.
Minor cartilage injuries may get better on their own within a few weeks, but more severe cartilage damage may eventually require surgery.
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Symptoms of cartilage damage in a joint include:
It can sometimes be difficult to tell a cartilage injury apart from other common joint injuries, such as sprains, as the symptoms are similar.
If you've injured your joint, it's a good idea to try self-care measures first. Sprains and minor cartilage damage may get better on their own within a few days or weeks.
More severe cartilage damage probably won't improve on its own and if left untreated, can eventually wear down the joint.
Visit your GP or a minor injuries unit (MIU) if:
Your GP may need to refer you for tests such as an X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or arthroscopy (a type of keyhole surgery used to look inside joints) to find out if your cartilage is damaged.
Self-care measures are usually recommended as the first treatment for minor joint injuries. For the first few days:
A number of surgical techniques can be used, including:
Read more about how cartilage damage is treated.