What Is Cartilage and Why Is It Relevant to Osteoarthritis?
Cartilage, the smooth, rubber-like tissue found in crucial places throughout our body, cushions our bones from rubbing up against one another. This special tissue, which doesn’t contain any nerves or blood vessels, helps our bones glide smoothly, hence why it’s absolutely crucial for our joints.
But while our bodies contain cartilage in many places, not all cartilage is created equal. For instance, the cartilage found in your ear and nose isn’t the same as the cartilage in your knee joint. Not only do they have different purposes, the cartilage in your ear is much more flexible and elastic, while joint cartilage, also called hyaline or articular cartilage, is much more rigid. When that knee joint cartilage breaks down, it causes pain, swelling, and reduced range of motion, which ultimately results in osteoarthritis – something you won’t experience in your nose or ears.
Osteoarthritis has historically been referred to as “wear-and-tear” arthritis, as many believed it was caused by the slow weathering down of cartilage over time. However, doctors now understand that osteoarthritis is caused by many factors, including genetics, injury, weight, and overuse.
All of those factors can and do contribute to the breakdown of cartilage and the development of osteoarthritis. For many people who suffer from this chronic condition, the question remains: Is there a way to restore this cartilage back to its fully functional form? And if there is, can it be accomplished via injections, or is there some other nonsurgical way?
Can I Grow Back Lost or Damaged Cartilage in My Knee?
For your body, the process of repairing damaged cartilage isn’t the same as healing a cut, scrape or break. Since cartilage contains no blood, your body can’t promote regeneration with the usual methods. In response, doctors have innovated multiple treatments to help this process, but it only works for patients with healthy joints. Two common treatments include:
- Microfracturing — Surgeons pierce holes in the bone below cartilage. This forms a blood clot that promotes healing and produces fibrocartilage, a type of cartilage less durable than joint cartilage that doesn’t naturally occur in knee joints.
- Scaffolding — Surgeons “scaffold” or layer cells that produce cartilage and incubate them outside of the body. Doctors then place these cells in a damaged joint, and they stimulate cartilage growth.
To reiterate, these treatments, among the other current ones being employed, are only recommended for patients with healthy joints who have a small area of damaged cartilage. Unfortunately, there are no known surgical or nonsurgical options for patients with osteoarthritis to regenerate lost cartilage in their joints.
But you do have some options.
Is It Possible for Osteoarthritis Patients to Regenerate Cartilage?
Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease that currently has no cure, and there is currently no FDA-approved injection, treatment, or surgery that can effectively replace the broken-down cartilage in the joints of osteoarthritis patients. However, we are hopeful that modern regenerative medical practices will procure an effective way to treat and cure arthritis.
Until that time, there are treatments that directly address the pain felt by cartilage loss due to osteoarthritis. Doctors found that viscosupplementation, or gel knee shots, eases the knee pain of osteoarthritis by serving as the lubricant between the cartilage.
Viscosupplementation Helps with Osteoarthritis Pain
Our bodies produce a thick, gel-like substance called synovial fluid that keeps our joints lubricated and properly functioning. Synovial fluid contains a substance called hyaluronan that increases the viscosity and lubricating properties of the fluid. It works in conjunction with cartilage to ensure your joints function smoothly, as it seeps into microcavities and nonconformities in your cartilage to reduce the friction and pain of grinding joints. However, as cartilage deteriorates, so does synovial fluid.
That’s why our doctors at Arthritis Relief & Vascular Centers employ viscosupplementation to mitigate the pain associated with osteoarthritis. Although there is no treatment to effectively regenerate lost cartilage, doctors can renew the synovial fluid essential for smooth joints with this FDA-Approved treatment.
What This Means for You and Your Osteoarthritis Treatment
No knee injection or surgery can recover lost cartilage due to osteoarthritis. However, treatments such as viscosupplementation can help reduce the creaking and grinding in your joints, restore function, and lower inflammation. These treatments can slow the progression of your disease and help get you back on your feet.
Want to know which treatment is right for you? Contact Arthritis Relief & Vascular Centers to schedule your free no-obligation screening with one of our physicians to determine if viscosupplementation may help you.