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Improving Joint Cartilage Health.

Video Version 

Many people believe articular (hyaline) cartilage can’t be strengthened, but this isn’t true. Research shows that cartilage can thicken in response to loading (Tuna et al 2016, Multanen et al 2014) and get thinner in response to off-loading and immobilisation (Eckstein  et al 2006)

To review the basics, joint cartilage lacks nerve endings, so damage isn’t felt until it’s significant. Joint cartilage also lacks a lymphatic or blood supply, making healing difficult. Despite this, cartilage is metabolically active and benefits from movement, which nourishes the joint.

Research shows that inactivity leads to thinner cartilage, while exercise can increase its thickness. The best exercises for cartilage health appears to be low-impact repetitive movement at moderate intensity with sufficient rest periods between episodes. Activities like cycling, rowing, using an elliptical trainer, resistance training, and walking are ideal.

This type of activity stimulates cartilage cells, called chondrocytes, to produce collagen, creating, or maintaining, a strong, gliding protective layer. This is most crucial during childhood and may reduce the risk of osteoarthritis later in life (Helminen et al 2000).

In some cases, high-impact activities like running and jumping can harm cartilage if introduced suddenly and performed in a continuous manner but gradual introduction allows cartilage to adapt. One interesting study (Koli et al 2015) showed that even high-impact activities like step aerobics can have a positive effect on knee joint cartilage after a year of regular practice.

It is important to be aware of an individual’s injury history. Joint injuries that alter the mechanics of a joint, like ACL tears in the knee, increase the risk of early onset osteoarthritis, so a cartilage protection plan including the low-impact repetitive movement exercises would be an important consideration. Other considerations may include diet and supplementation.  

It may come as no surprise that once again science supports the claim that exercise and activity are good for you, in this case specifically cartilage. Hopefully these few words and gathering of research articles will help you to keep motivating your clients to keep moving.

Even if they still need a bit of RockTape to get them started.

Here is the video version of this article that you could share with patients: https://youtu.be/iekkzIAFnIM

Here is a new self-taping Knee Video featuring our new RockTape X Rheon: https://youtu.be/MIuFjHaJCmw

Here is a self-taping Knee Video using the original RockTape: https://youtu.be/oAF10VsB6n4?si=Z55KZqm2m769VqhT

Studies mentioned:

Eckstein, F., Hudelmaier, M. and Putz, R., 2006. The effects of exercise on human articular cartilage. Journal of anatomy208(4), pp.491-512.

Helminen, H.J., Hyttinen, M.M., Lammi, M.J., Arokoski, J.P., Lapveteläinen, T., Jurvelin, J., Kiviranta, I. and Tammi, M.I., 2000. Regular joint loading in youth assists in the establishment and strengthening of the collagen network of articular cartilage and contributes to the prevention of osteoarthrosis later in life: a hypothesis. Journal of bone and mineral metabolism18(5), p.245.

Koli, Jarmo, Juhani Multanen, Urho M. Kujala, Arja Häkkinen, Miika T. Nieminen, Hannu Kautiainen, Eveliina Lammentausta et al. (2015). “Effects of exercise on patellar cartilage in women with mild knee osteoarthritis.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 47(9), 1767-1774.

Tuna, Serpil; Balcı, Nilüfer; Özçakar, Levent (2016). “The relationship between femoral cartilage thickness and muscle strength in knee osteoarthritis.” Clinical Rheumatology, 35(8), 2073–2077. doi:10.1007/s10067-016-3271-4.

Multanen, J., Nieminen, M. T., Hakkinen, A., et al. (2014). “Effects of high-impact training on bone and articular cartilage: 12-month randomized controlled quantitative MRI study.” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 29(1), 192–201.