Chondritis, or cartilage inflammation, can affect any part of the body where cartilage exists. Some common types include osteochondritis, which affects the joints, and costochondritis, which occurs in the cartilage of the ribs. The condition can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness in the affected area. Often it requires little to no treatment and resolves on its own, but there are several possible ways to treat cartilage inflammation to minimize discomfort and promote healing.
One of the most basic treatments for cartilage inflammation is rest. Physical activities that aggravate the affected cartilage should be minimized or avoided altogether, and occasionally immobilizing the impacted area is called for. By limiting the movement of the inflamed area, pain and strain can be avoided and the cartilage is allowed to heal.
Another simple way to treat cartilage inflammation is by applying heat or cold, depending on which one provides the person relief. An ice pack applied to the affected area may help reduce swelling and pain. Alternatively, a heating pad set to low heat may also work to address symptoms.
Certain medications are also used to treat cartilage inflammation. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, help decrease pain and minimize the inflammation. Shots of corticosteroids may be given in the impacted location if NSAIDs are not effective. In some cases, other types of drugs such as muscle relaxants, local anesthetics, and even some types of antidepressants may be used to offer pain relief. If the inflammation is being caused by an infection, antibiotics may be necessary.
Although rest and avoiding overuse of the affected area is recommended, some physical activities may be useful to treat cartilage inflammation. Light, low-impact exercises like walking or swimming, as long as they do not exacerbate symptoms, may help maintain some flexibility and increase the person’s overall feeling of well-being. Physical therapy may be used to maintain range of motion and increase muscle strength to support affected joints.
Some extreme cases may need surgery to correct the issue. If the inflamed cartilage does not respond to other, less invasive treatments, it might become necessary to remove it. In the case of osteochondritis dissecans, where the bone in the joint is damaged along with the cartilage, the patient can be severely impacted by pain and loss of mobility. If the other treatments mentioned above do not work, arthroscopic surgery may be the best option to repair any damage.