All joint surfaces are covered in cartilage, which performs two important functions: on the one hand, the smooth surface, coupled with the joint fluid, ensures unrestricted sliding inside the joint. On the other, the joint cartilage has a mechanical buffering function, i.e. it transfers and compensates the pressure and impact stresses of the joint to the bone.
Acute damage to the joint cartilage can be caused by injury, for example. However, leg alignment problems (marked knock knees or bow legs) can also cause unilateral cartilage damage inside the joint due to chronic misalignment. Since cartilage does not renew itself, these conditions require prompt treatment. Long-established damage cannot be repaired.
This also explains why, after long periods of heavy stress, for example when playing sports, or repeated tiny instances of damage which may not even be noticeable and taken seriously, chronic cartilage damage can develop. Ultimately, this can lead to arthrosis. It is therefore very important to detect cartilage damage and its causes early and treat it accordingly.
When cartilage is newly injured, the accompanying symptoms are typically capsule sprain and hematoma with pain. The damaged cartilage itself does not hurt. This is why many cartilage injuries go undiagnosed.
Only chronic damage with the loss of cartilage substance causes pain and joint swelling, which can occur on exertion but also at rest.
The conservative therapy options include an in-depth consultation regarding the avoidance of uneven distributions of load and changes to sporting activities, medication-based treatment and physiotherapy and possibly the prescription of orthopaedic devices.