What is Cartilage Degeneration

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We take the freedom of movement for granted, until it becomes limited. Cartilage degeneration is usually the underlying cause of joint stiffness. Cartilage and the connective tissue at the end of our bones naturally start to change as we get older – enhanced by injuries carried forward from our younger sportier days.

Cartilage consists of approximately 65 percent water; the protein-like substance collagen, water-carrying molecules with a protein core known as proteoglycans (that form the matrix or netting of all cartilage and the synovial fluid in joints) and chondrocytes strands that build up the proteoglycans.

The cartilage that produces new collagen and proteoglycan molecules also release enzymes to destroy and dispose of ageing collagen and proteoglycan molecules. Proteoglycans change as we age, causing the joint to become less resilient, more susceptible to damage, and the cartilage to become thinner.  Fluid in the joints decreases and as a result, cartilage surfaces begin to rub together and erode.  Joints become stiffer because the connective tissue within ligaments and tendons becomes more rigid and brittle, limiting joint mobility.

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Why does cartilage degeneration take place?

This is usually the result of either ageing, injury or both. As people get older the body loses its ability to produce enough of the natural substances that assist the body to keep the cartilage healthy. Damaged cartilage due to injury needs more of these substances to recover.

To find out what these substances are, one only has to look at what cartilage constituents off.

Many joint problems are caused by cartilage degeneration. Think of cartilage as the natural protective layer at the end of bones that makes smooth articulation possible where bones come together in joints. Once this protective layer becomes uneven or loses its natural elasticity it leads to friction that results in stiffness, inflammation, swelling and even noisiness.

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