Cartilage is a strong but flexible connective tissue that prevents bone friction in joints such as the knee, hip, shoulder and even vertebrae in the back. Joint cartilage can tear from overuse and repetitive force, for example in playing sports or lifting heavy weights. As people age, they are more susceptible to torn cartilage injuries. Treatment for a torn cartilage is similar to that for other joint conditions (e.g., arthritis, tendinitis) in that the best recourse is usually rest, immobilisation, ice, heat, medication, supplements and exercise.
Stop all physical activity immediately. Wear a brace to immobilise your injury and prevent sudden movements.
Take two ibuprofen or naproxen pills every four to six hours. Continue taking the anti-inflammatory medication until your inflammation and pain are gone.
Press an ice pack directly against the source of pain and leave it in place for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat ice therapy every three to four hours until the initial inflammation and swelling are substantially reduced.
Apply a heating pad for 15 to 20 minutes once your inflammation and swelling are under control. Use the heating pad several times per day until the symptoms are completely gone.
Take two glucosamine-chondroitin pills each day. For torn knee cartilage, stand with one hand against the wall. Grab the ankle on the side of the injured knee and slowly pull it up toward your buttock. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then relax; repeat three times. For the shoulder, grab the back of your elbow while seated and pull it toward your chest. Hold and repeat as described for the knee. For the lower back, lie on the floor with your knees up and both feet on the floor. Slowly press your lower back against the floor. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax. Do 10 repetitions.
Get ice on the joint right away. Ice will reduce the inflammation and swelling by limiting the flow of blood to the joint (vasoconstriction). Later, heat will promote blood flow to soft tissues surrounding the cartilage tear. Blood heals soft tissues by supplying them with oxygen and nutrients. Though cartilage is avascular (no blood supply), nutrients will still reach the cartilage. In addition to a healthy diet, glucosamine and chondroitin has been clinically proven to help rebuild existing cartilage.
See your doctor if you suspect your cartilage tear is serious. You may also have a torn ligament such as the meniscus in the knee.