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.
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.
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.
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.
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.