Is It Possible to Rebuild Cartilage?

Erin J. Hill

In general, it is not possible to rebuild cartilage once it is gone. For those who are affected by conditions like osteoarthritis, the cartilage in joints will likely continue to wear away year after year, until there is none left. The only way to restore the joint at that time is to do a full replacement. Other possible treatments may include pain medications and supplements to ease stiffness and prevent further loss.

It is rumored that glucosamine might rebuild cartilage in some joints.
It is rumored that glucosamine might rebuild cartilage in some joints.

Although it is not possible to rebuild cartilage, some joints that are constantly painful may be replaced through surgery. Not all joints are eligible for this procedure, and the most common are the hips and knees. In most cases, an artificial joint is implanted into the body to replace the defective one. These new joints last upwards of 15 to 20 years, and pain is almost always alleviated entirely.

Cartilage loss might prompt a hip replacement.
Cartilage loss might prompt a hip replacement.

For non-chronic conditions, like injuries to the joints, cartilage may heal itself; this is not technically a rebuilding. Torn or sprained areas may eventually grow back or heal over in time, but the cartilage itself is not capable of rejuvenating itself as well as other parts of the body. Although it’s not yet known why cartilage doesn’t grow back like bone and muscle tissues do, it’s thought to be caused by a lack of blood vessels in the tissues. Other theories speculate there are fluids surrounding the cartilage that prevent it from being possible to rebuild cartilage properly.

Osteoarthritis erodes the cartilage in the joint.
Osteoarthritis erodes the cartilage in the joint.

There are some indications that certain supplements and emerging treatments may help make it possible to rebuild cartilage, but there is not any evidence as of yet to back these theories up. Glucosamine, for example, has been rumored to rebuild cartilage in the joints of those who suffer from arthritis and other chronic conditions. Medical treatments are also under development, but they are not completed and have not been tested for effectiveness.

A diagram of arthritis' effect on the knee joint.
A diagram of arthritis' effect on the knee joint.

The best way to prevent cartilage loss in the first place is to seek a doctor’s counsel at the first site of symptoms related to arthritis and osteoarthritis. These can include a soreness and stiffness in the joints, usually starting in the fingers, but also occurring in the back, knees, toes, hips, and neck. There are steps that can be taken to help prevent further damage from being done, or to at least slow the process down. In the prevention of bone loss, glucosamine may be beneficial, although every patient is encouraged to speak with his or her doctor individually.

When a joint is injured, cartilage may heal itself, although this is not the same thing as rebuilding.
When a joint is injured, cartilage may heal itself, although this is not the same thing as rebuilding.
Osteoarthritis is characterized by a wearing away of the cartilage in the joints.
Osteoarthritis is characterized by a wearing away of the cartilage in the joints.
Excessive weight on the joints for a prolonged period of time may cause the cartilage to wear away.
Excessive weight on the joints for a prolonged period of time may cause the cartilage to wear away.
No cure exists for osteoarthritis, which leads to severe degradation of cartilage on one or more joints of the body.
No cure exists for osteoarthritis, which leads to severe degradation of cartilage on one or more joints of the body.

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Discussion Comments


There are no side effects to Glucosamine and chondroitin, but in teenagers MSM can cause problems. I agree with the comment regarding peer reviewed studies, but there are actually some out there. The NIH and other respected organizations has them published on their site. The truth is that these supplement s are but two of several you need to effect change.

Cartilage can be rebuilt, depending on location and blood supply, but you need protein, calcium, and other minerals with the G & C supplements. You may also need physical therapy or strength training to correct the original cause. For most of us the issue is not a result of trauma, but years of abuse to the joint. The cure will be an equally long road.


Nutritional supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Although it is illegal for supplement marketers to say their products can be used to treat a specific condition or disease, they can make other claims that need not be reviewed by any government agency. Short of blatant fraud, these claims are legal, even though they may be unproven.


The claims that the supplement companies make are mandated by the government. Or at least I think it is mandated by the government. It is required by some authority. I sold herbal and homeopathic remedies that I know worked and I had to give every customer that disclaimer. Try the supplement; you generally have nothing to lose.


I took the advertised, expensive Synflex Glucosamine for some months, but it made no difference in my knee and back pain. Recently I came across some articles on Boron. According to these articles, arthritis may be caused by fluoride, which can occur naturally in drinking water or introduced by ignorance into the drinking water and toothpaste. Though it had been established that it is a poison, many water and toothpaste suppliers still poison people with it.

If you look on the web under Borax you will find interesting articles. It is mined in California, hence it should be easy enough to obtain it in the US, unless the pharmafia has blocked its sale. For $40 I bought 25kg -- enough for an army for a 100 years. It is too early to say if it works, though suddenly my nagging back pain has gone. Do your own research. People who recommend it have nothing to sell.


I have finger joint pain in my hands. I've cracked my knuckles for two years, but stopped about two months ago when my one finger started to hurt, and it didn't go away for a while. I was scared it wouldn't stop and that I had serious arthritis, but in about two weeks it was gone.

I haven't cracked my knuckles since then, and every now and then my fingers will hurt for about an hour to sometimes two days. I don't for the life of me want arthritis and I was wondering if glucosamine would actually work. If it would, then I'd be happy to take it, but if not, then I don't know what to do. Is it possible to get surgery on the fingers, or would that be next to impossible? Thanks for any help anyone can offer.


I started using Synflex 1500 just five days ago, and already it's given me relief from my knee pain I have been suffering more than 10 years!

I tried the pill form glucosamine and chondroitin for years with little result, but this is different, in liquid form, and I want to shout it from the rooftop! It works! I want to go for a walk, dance, take my dog to the park, go to the mall, ride my bike -- all the things I've been avoiding so long!

Read about it, look at the success stories, and try it! It's the best thing that has happened to my knees in years!


It is all very confusing for sure. And glucosamine/chondroitin is indeed expensive. Oddly, I have had two medical professionals, one a nutritionist, the other a sports medicine m.d. tell me: take it, take it, take it, and keep taking it. Is it a waste of money? Maybe. I've been taking it for three months, and it's no miracle cure, but would I be worse off without it? I've had no improvement or deterioration in three months.


My Orthopedist says Glucosamine does help maintain and rebuild cartilage in joints, if cartilage is still there. If the cartilage is completely gone, though, he says it won't help. However, he says you have to take it for several months to see results and then keep taking it. He is very conservative, so I believe him.

I think some people expect a miracle when they take something like this, like an immediate cessation of pain and stiffness. That's not how it works. It is important to preserve the cartilage, to keep it from disappearing completely, because then you have something to work with, and more hope.


@David09 - A friend of mine is majoring in sports medicine. He says one of his focal points will be helping people with cartilage injury. I’ve heard stories of athletes with extremely debilitating conditions being helped a lot. It is possible to recover from even the worst conditions, but I think it involves a lot of physical therapy and exercises. Sports medicine professionals work with a lot of athletes who perform repetitive motions, like golfers and tennis players for example.

I’ll have to ask his opinion on the Glucosamine products. I doubt he would endorse them, but I wouldn’t touch that stuff if I were you. At the very minimum, you should at least let your doctor know you’re taking the supplements. They’re virtually drugs themselves after all.


@NathanG – I agree, I don’t think you can rebuild cartilage damage as easily as those infomercials say. If the stuff they hawk on television is so good, where are the peer-reviewed medical studies proving that it works? Why does the FDA never approve or review the claims made on television?


@ David09 - They’re snake-oil salesmen, all of them. I wouldn’t touch that alternative medicine stuff from a mile away. I tried Glucose Chondroitin products years back for my arthritis and it didn’t do a thing. I didn’t lose any pain, but I sure lost a whole bunch of money. I must have bought a truckload of that stuff. Right now I’m on pharmacy drugs. Yes, they’re pain killers and may have long-term side effects, but I’m not dead yet and at least I can go about my daily routine.


Cartilage repair is a hot topic in alternative medicine. I just watched a 30-minute infomercial by one of these self-help gurus who was selling a product that had Glucosamine, claiming it had miraculously cured his arthritis. I guess the word “cure” should be used lightly. They had all these disclaimers saying the product was not intended to cure diseases, etc. However, he claimed that it actually did rebuild the cartilage, or at least helped the body to do so. I was thinking of getting it for my back pain. Does anyone have any ideas?

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