Our knees support our bodies as well as help us move. They are made up of several different parts that are all critical to their function.
Cartilage is one of the knee’s main components. Alongside bones, muscles, and other tissue, cartilage plays a major role in how our knees work.
To better understand our bodies, learning about knee cartilage and how we can take care of it is very important.
What is Knee Cartilage?
Cartilage is a type of connective tissue that binds bones, muscles, and tendons together.
While cartilage is often thought of as soft bone tissue, it is actually made up of collagen, water, and specific types of proteins. While it is tough and sturdy, cartilage is also flexible for ease of movement.
There are three main types of cartilage you should be familiar with:
- Hyaline cartilage is found in the joints, septum of the nose, and the trachea.
- Elastic cartilage, which is the most flexible type of cartilage, is found in the ears as well as parts of the nose and trachea.
- Fibrous cartilage is specific to cartilage pads called menisci, which are located in different parts of the body. This type of cartilage is designed to support body weight and protect bones and muscles from any external damage.
Hyaline cartilage and fibrous cartilage are the two types of cartilage that are found in the knee. Elastic cartilage is much thinner in comparison and is therefore only found in small body parts that do not support a large amount of body weight.
While cartilage does not contain any blood vessels, it absorbs nutrients from the body through its soft outer layer.
The Role of Knee Cartilage
To understand what knee cartilage does for our knees, you must first become familiar with how the knee works.
Our knees are made up of three major bones:
- The femur or thigh bone
- The tibia or the shin bone
- The patella or kneecap.
While these bones are extremely strong, they cannot function without the other parts of the knee:
- Joints hold knee bones together to allow movement. They are made of cartilage.
- The menisci are located at the center of the knee, They provide padding that protects them from impact. They are made of cartilage.
- Ligaments connect knee joints as well as cover and protect knee bones. They are made of collagen.
- Muscles give bones strength and mobility.
- Tendons attach muscles to bones, allowing the two of them to work together. They are made of collagen and elastin.
The main components of the knee that are made of cartilage are joins and the menisci. They hold bones together to allow for movement and also protect our knees from external damage.
In our knees, the main functions of cartilage are as follows:
- Connect bone and tissue
- Provide sturdiness and flexibility
- Cushion movement
- Reduce friction between bones
While cartilage gives our knees the stability they need, they are very susceptible to injury and damage. To keep your knee cartilage healthy, it is important to recognize issues that may afflict knee cartilage.
Cartilage is most commonly damaged by:
Like any part of our bodies, our knees are susceptible to accidental injury or impact that may damage the bones, muscles, and cartilage.
Because the cartilage in our knees works to reduce friction between bones and cushion pressure, excessive weight may lead to cartilage damage. This is especially because our knees carry most of our body weight.
While exercise is beneficial to the body, excessive use of the knee during repetitive or vigorous exercise or a job that requires physical activity can put pressure on the knee and damage cartilage in the area.
As individuals grow older, the cartilage in their knees can become thinner and weaker from years of use. While this is a natural process, it can cause problems with mobility.
Cartilage weakness can also be caused by nutrient deficiencies or by certain illnesses that affect the joints or bones. It is always best to speak to a doctor if you are experiencing unbearable amounts of discomfort and pain in the area.
How To Keep Knee Cartilage Healthy
Keeping your knee cartilage healthy requires a balanced lifestyle that combines diet and movement.
For optimal health, you must incorporate all of the essential nutrients into your diet. For knee cartilage care, focus on the following:
Protein: Protein is the building block of all our cells and body tissue. It is also very important for muscle strength, which helps support knee cartilage.
Good sources of protein include lean meat, poultry, dairy, and nuts.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are the healthy fats that our bodies need to function. They help strengthen cartilage and joints.
To get your omega-3 fatty acids in, eat fish and seeds.
Calcium and Vitamin D: While all vitamins are important for body health, calcium and vitamin D are directly involved in keeping bones and cartilage strong.
Load up on dairy and dark leafy greens for your calcium and vitamin D intake.
Anti-Inflammatory Herbs: Because inflammation can make cartilage susceptible to pain and damage, you must keep inflammation at bay.
Some herbs and supplements can help counter inflammation. They include ginger, turmeric, and even garlic.
Exercise and general movement are both very important in keeping our joints and cartilage healthy. While excessive movement can lead to injury, exercise helps keep our knees and body strong and flexible.
Here are some tips:
- Engage in any type of exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week.
- Stretch before exercising, in the morning, and before going to bed for flexibility.
- Take breaks if your job requires physical movement that puts stress on your knees.
Types of exercise and movement can vary based on individual needs and strength. Above all, it is most important that you engage in any type of movement daily.