Osteoarthritis Causes

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in a joint begins to deteriorate. When joint cartilage wears down enough that the bones rub together, pain is caused. The friction prompts the bones to produce spurs (also known as osteophytes), which reduce mobility. Fluid-filled pockets in the bone marrow, called subchondral cysts, also develop. Hip joint pain often occurs when subchondral cysts rupture into the joint.

Inflammation develops gradually with osteoarthritis. Early stages of osteoarthritis may produce little or no inflammation. In later stages of the disease, however, fluid accumulation and bone friction may cause severe inflammation. Rapid development of swollen, inflamed joints may indicate a condition known as rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis Causes: Primary and Secondary

As recently as the 1980s, osteoarthritis was believed to be an inevitable result of “wear and tear.” Research into cartilage formation and osteoarthritis has shown us that osteoarthritis is a result of several different factors. Osteoarthritis has been divided into two main categories depending on the cause of the disease: primary and secondary osteoarthritis. Primary osteoarthritis has no known cause. Secondary arthritis is due to an existing medical condition or past injury.

The effects of obesity on osteoarthritis are well documented. Carrying extra weight puts pressure on weight-bearing joints, especially the hips, knees and spine. Hip joint pain or spinal arthritis may result from carrying excess weight. Because it is a progressive disease, anyone with arthritis should pay particular attention to hip joint pain and other symptoms. If you’re experiencing symptoms report them to your doctor.

Some other causes of secondary osteoarthritis are:

  • an injury or trauma, including sports injuries
  • repetitive use of the joint
  • congenital abnormalities in joint structure
  • endocrine disorders.


DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. (updated 2004). All about your arthritis. AllAboutArthritis.com.