Cartilege occurs in many parts of the body, the cartilege in the septum of your nose (middle part) and your ears is called elastic cartilage because of it’s flexability. There is cartilage between your ribs and sternum, in your airways and your spine between the discs. The cartilage that lines the ends of your bones, articular cartilage is what today’s post is about.

Articular cartilage exists in 4 layers and it’s function is to cushion shock, distribute weight evenly and allow the smooth gliding motion of healthy joint action. Articular cartilage is found in the joints of your hands, wrists,  feet, ankles, knees, elbows and hips. It is white, rubbery and slippery when wet, the “grissle” in chicken and lamb legs is articular cartilage.

When cartilage is worn it can feel and even sound like sandy grits are moving in the joint, when wear becomes extreme as in the case of advanced osteo arthritis a painful grinding bone on bone sensation that sounds like the timber on an wooden ship can be quite audible. I once nursed an elderly female patient whose OA was so extreme I could feel her knees vibrate all the way to her wrists when I helped her stand up. OA is very painful when it gets to that point.

Excess body weight, poor nutrition and hydration, bad posture, lack of exercise, genetic factors and trauma all take a toll on articular cartilage. For as long as the surface of joint cartilage is intact the it will bend and straighten smoothly (provided the other tissues of the joint are working).

Kneeling down on hard surfaces pressurizes and can progressively damage the cartilage behind your knee cap. Bending any joint too far or in the wrong direction can damage cartilage too. Auto immune diseases such as  rheumatoid arthritis and polymyalgia rheumatica can make cartilage swell and make the joint weak and painful. Costochondria can result from a rib cartilage injury and make breathing painful. Shoulder dislocations can damage cartilage too.

Cartilage contains no blood, it’s nutrition occurs through cellular food and waste leeching back and forth through it’s outer membrane. This makes cartilage slow to heal, knee meniscus, shoulder rotator cuff and hip labrum are all terms describing cartilage of different locations.

Joint replacement (and partial replacement) is most often performed because of irreparable cartilage damage. Stem cell injection at the time of writing has produced some very promising results but does not work as well on everybody and steroids can reduce cartilage inflammation.

Sports clinics are kept very busy with cartilage injuries, particularly of the knee. Cartilage trauma is often accompanied by by ligament and tendon trauma too particular when the joint twists too far.

There was an American rheumatologist who got interested in the apparent benefits of consuming shark fin cartilage as a cure for arthritic pain. He ran a trial of 15 OA patients who had not responded that well to the drugs he gave them so he ground down ordinary chicken cartilage and put it in capsules that his trial patients took 3 times a day. He reported that after 6 weeks 13 of them had noted improved symptoms.

Not all things work as well for all people, but keeping your weight down and having good balance and posture will all help sustain healthy cartilage. Damaged leg cartilage may cause you to limp and this can create lower back pain, Self Massage to the back and hips can help keep you going.

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