The cartilage of the hip is found between the femoral head of the thigh bone and the socket of the hip bone, or acetabulum. It’s this bodily material that cushions the hip joint for comfortable, day-to-day movement. By reducing friction – and bone on bone contact – cartilage is directly responsible for the hip’s range of motion capabilities. However, degeneration of the hip’s cartilage can inflict damage to the internal structure of the joint.
Since cartilage does not have its own blood supply, it cannot regenerate nearly as effectively as other tissues in the body. These restrictions – such as lack of flexibility and overall support- within the hip can lead to a mismatch within the ball-and-socket joint and grind against one another. As the protective material deteriorates over time, pain and instability can present itself in varying levels of severity.
Causes of Hip Cartilage Damage
The causes of hip cartilage damage can occur from a large range of scenarios. Below briefly lists some of the common ways hip cartilage degeneration begins or worsens.
- Direct Impacts (most commonly in contact sports or falls)
- Repeated Twisting Motions
- Average Wear and Tear
- Joint and Inflammatory Diseases (i.e. Arthritis)
Signs of Cartilage Damage in the Hip
Identifying any associated symptoms of cartilage damage will play a major role in hip joint preservation. Patients will experience obvious signs of undesirable pain and movement restrictions as cartilage continues to break down. The following list contains examples of symptoms and conditions a patient may suffer due to hip cartilage damage.
- Joint Stiffness
- Persistent Pain
- Decrease in Range of Motion
- Joint Locking
- Joint Numbing
- Hip Impingement
- Labrum Tears
Diagnosing Hip Cartilage Conditions
Hip cartilage damage cannot be overlooked. Seeking out professional assistance is necessary to successfully treat and recover from any symptoms or conditions. As with most medical conditions, early diagnosis ensures the highest rate of successful treatment. A diagnosis of the cartilage is generally made through one of two assessments: MRI or diagnostic arthroscopy. Depending on the results of either test, both may be utilized to accurately locate the exact area of treatment. After the affected area is found, the cartilage will then be assessed with a grading scale. This will determine the severity of the damage with a grading rank of a 1 through 4.
Restoration Techniques and Treatments for Hip Cartilage Damage
Once the damage has been graded, the orthopaedist will select a personalized treatment method that uniquely assists the individual. Similar to the diagnosis, cartilage restoration can come in both surgical and non-surgical treatment. Non-surgical means can come in the form of supportive devices such as braces, splints, lifestyle changes and physical therapy to strengthen the area surrounding the joint. Surgical treatments, if recommended by your orthopaedist, are all minimally invasive procedures that may include arthroscopic debridement, mosaicplasty, allograft transplantations and cartilage implantations.