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.
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 will not improve on its own. If left untreated, it can eventually wear down the joint.
Visit your GP or a minor injuries unit (MIU) if:
Self care measures are usually recommended as the first treatment for minor joint injuries.
For the first few days:
Get medical advice if your symptoms are severe or do not improve after a few days. You may need professional treatment, such as physiotherapy, or possibly surgery.
A number of surgical techniques can be used, including:
Read more about how cartilage damage is treated.