Rebuilding Cartilage Health: One More Rationale for Chiropractic Adjustments

Cartilage is an example of a bodily tissue that’s been honed to a high degree of perfection over our million plus years of evolutionary development.

(Quick anatomy refresher course:  cartilage covers the ends of bones where they meet to form a joint.)

Here’s one example of its design genius:  The friction between two cartilage surfaces is ridiculously low.  The coefficient of friction between joint surfaces has been estimated to be 0.001.  By comparison, the friction between two Teflon surfaces – one of the smoothest human-designed interfaces – is forty times higher.

Cartilage forms about as optimal a joint lining as we could ever hope to engineer.

Superman has his fatal weakness, and so does cartilage.

Despite its brilliant design, damage to cartilage is a feature of almost any type of joint problem you could be having.  For instance:

  • If you play tennis, you can create fissures in the cartilage of your knee or shoulder.
  • A ballet dancer can stress the cartilage lining the hip joint, leading to future hip replacement surgery.
  • And if you’re over sixty, chances are you’ve experienced low back or neck stiffness from the gradual deterioration of joint cartilage.

Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite.  Cartilage’s vulnerability?  It doesn’t have a direct blood supply.  Cartilage can only get nourishment (and can only rid itself of waste products) through passive diffusion.

Fortunately, every time you compress cartilage, fluids are squeezed out.  When the compression is released, fluids are sucked back in.

For example, as you walk, your knees (and the cartilage inside them) take turns bearing weight.  When you step on your right foot, fluids and waste products are being squeezed out of the right knee cartilage, while fresh nutrients are being absorbed by the left.  And vice versa.

It’s out with the bad air, in with the good.

That’s the process by which cartilage maintains its health – balanced, periodic loading.

Movement keeps cartilage healthy

But what happens when

  • You’re not as active as you should be?
  • Your joints are compacted, so they don’t experience normal cycles of loading and unloading?
  • Your joints are out of balance, so that certain sections of your cartilage take all the wear?

You get cartilage degeneration. Also known as arthritis.

Preventing arthritis

Medical doctors will tell you that there’s no cure for arthritis.  Technically they’re right.

But that doesn’t mean you have to stand idly by while your joints deteriorate.

Healthy joints require balanced, physiologic joint motion to maximize cartilage nourishment.  That’s where your own physical activity and chiropractic joint adjustments shine.

An adjustment creates passive movement of the joint.  That gives an instant nutrition boost to cartilage.  But we chiropractors believe there’s an extra bonus.

The adjustment is designed to restore optimal movement dynamics of the joint, so that your normal activities load the weight-bearing surfaces evenly.  That’s the way your joints were designed to operate – not the distorted way they’ve actually been operating due to lack of use, misuse, and postural distortion.

When normal motion is restored, all parts of the joint cartilage are nourished by ordinary daily movement.

The cartilage-nourishing benefits of the adjustment carry forward for hours or days after your chiropractic treatment.

A lead suit makes Superman impervious to kryptonite.  Chiropractic research is working to establish the value of adjustments in slowing down joint degeneration and making you (relatively) impervious to arthritis.


About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods. His website,, provides more information about his approach. Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.
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