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HEALTHY LIVING: Cartilage – keeping it all together

by Graham Thomas | May 11, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

From your head to your toes, cartilage plays an important role in how you move, breathe and feel, but take care -- once it's damaged, cartilage can be hard to repair.

For many people, the first time they think about cartilage is when they sustain an injury or start suffering from joint pain. But this connective tissue is there from day one and is designed to last throughout your life.

What is cartilage?

Cartilage is the primary connective tissue in the body, and it's anything but basic. A special matrix structure of proteins and a high level of water content help keep cartilage flexible and tough.

There are three main types of cartilage. This tissue functions differently depending on where it's located and what its job is in that place. Fibrous cartilage develops into pillow-like structures called menisci that cushion joints from friction and impact. Elastic cartilage is more flexible and is found in structures such as the trachea, ears and parts of the nose. And hyaline cartilage -- also known as articular cartilage -- can be found in joints where it coats bony surfaces to reduce friction during movement, as well as parts of the nose and trachea.

Strong yet vulnerable

Injury, overuse, undue physical stress and strains can all damage the intricate structure of cartilage. It may wear away, become thin or develop lesions that can spread, deteriorating over time. Damage to the articular cartilage that coats bone joints can leave behind a painful bone-on-bone grinding, leading to osteoarthritis and going on to harm the joint.

Cartilage injury may be sudden, as in the case of an accident, or the result of years of wear and tear from improper posture, being overweight or other strain on the tissue. Signs of cartilage damage include pain with movement or difficulty using a joint.

Seek help sooner than later

Unchecked, cartilage damage can severely affect your ability to perform daily tasks and enjoy your life. This type of damage doesn't have to be inevitable. You can practice good cartilage health by being active in moderation, maintaining a healthful weight, practicing good posture and otherwise reducing your risk of putting pressure on cartilage throughout your body.

Treatment options may include replenishing cartilage or shaving off the painful edges of damaged cartilage that can catch on moving joints to reduce discomfort. Treatment is more effective the sooner it begins. A corrected cartilage lesion may not spread, for example. Patients with advanced cartilage damage may quality for joint replacement surgery or other interventions.

Talk to your doctor if you're living with joint pain and think cartilage may be to blame. The sooner you seek treatment and address the underlying cause of cartilage damage, the better.

If a joint injury or other orthopedic condition is keeping you from enjoying life the way you used to, you don't have to travel far from home. Northwest Health is a convenient choice for orthopedic services. To learn more about our services, visit today!

Move more to protect cartilage

Living with joint pain from cartilage damage is no picnic. You can help strengthen and sustain injured cartilage and joints by staying active in the right way.

Step 1: Stay loose. Flexibility is key to keeping range of motion when you have cartilage damage. Consider doing yoga or adding stretching to your daily routine.

Step 2: Build strong muscles. The muscles around a joint play a big role in how much strain is put on cartilage. You can stave off cartilage damage by strengthening the surrounding muscles and building a strong core to improve your posture. Try lifting weights, but be sure to start slow and build up strength over time.

Step 3: Improve aerobic health. Research suggests that the boost to cardiovascular health from aerobic exercise may be beneficial to joints.

About Siloam Springs Regional Hospital

Siloam Springs Regional Hospital (SSRH) is a licensed 73-bed facility with 42 private patient rooms. It is accredited by the State of Arkansas Department of Health Services and The Joint Commission. Some services include inpatient and outpatient surgery, emergency medicine, medical, surgical and intensive care units, obstetrics, outpatient diagnostic services and inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. With more than 50 physicians on the medical staff, Siloam Springs Regional Hospital provides compassionate, customer-focused care. SSRH is an affiliate of Northwest Health, the largest health system in Northwest Arkansas. Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is located at 603 N. Progress Ave. in Siloam Springs, Ark. For more information, visit

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