Knee joint is a complex but an important joint in the body; it is a weight bearing joint. Any harm to it can be devastating. It can have crippling effect on the body. You may not be able to move easily. The range of motion will become limited.
Most common reason for this restricted and painful movement of knee joint is due to degeneration of knee cartilage. Medical term for degeneration of cartilage is osteoarthritis. The damage or degeneration of knee cartilage can be caused due to variety of reasons; growing age is one of them.
Cartilage is a thin membrane like material which is made up of collagen and non collagenous proteins. The main function of cartilage is to prevent friction of bones in the joint space. Besides acting as a cushion, cartilage allows the bones to glide over each other smoothly. This happens due to its lubricating effect. It also acts as a shock absorber.
Knee joint cartilage also absorbs daily stress and strain which occurs while doing various activities such as; jumping, walking etc. The primary component of cartilage is water. Almost 80% is water. But as the person grows old, it dries up. This gives rise to stiffness of knee joint and restricted painful movement.
What Causes Degenerating Cartilage In Knees?
- The most common cause for degeneration of knee cartilage is natural aging process. There is an imbalance between water and protein content of the cartilage. The cartilage eventually gets torn and destroyed.
- Repetitive motions: repeated abnormal motions can have damaging effect on the cartilage of the knee.
- Since knee joint is a weight bearing joint, an obese person can put more pressure on the knees.
- Repeated trauma to the knee joint in people playing certain sports such as soccer can affect the cartilage.
- Deposit of uric acid crystals in knee joint can damage and degenerate knee joint cartilage.
- Some people are born with congenital defect in the knee joint. They are more prone to cartilage degeneration.
How To Strengthen Cartilage In Knees?
When the cartilage in knee joint begins to degenerate, you have to build up your leg muscles to take on the load of stress and strain on your knees. You have to make them strong and this is possible by doing exercise. Squeezing the thigh muscles for few seconds is a good exercise. Also do exercises to strengthen the calf muscles and hamstrings.
Vitamins are also valuable for maintaining healthy cartilage. Certain vitamins help to make collagen and cartilage is made up of collagen. Eat broccoli, dark leafy vegetables, oranges, strawberries. Vitamin D also strengthens the cartilage in knees. Milk is a rich source of vitamin D. Other rich source is exposure to sunlight.
Regeneration Of Cartilage In The Knee
The cartilage does not have the quality to rebuild itself. However, when the cartilage is damaged and degenerated due to acute joint injury it may heal on its own after a period of rest. In medical term this may not be called rebuilding of cartilage. Researchers are not able to find why as bones, the cartilage is not getting regenerated. Probably the reason they think is due to lack of blood vessels in the cartilage.
The second reason they suspect is the fluid surrounding the cartilage. Some supplements such as Glucosamine are claimed to benefit in rebuilding the cartilage. Although there is no definite endorsement to confirms the claim by clinical research and trials. Experiments are going on with stem cells by scientists.