Risk factors for arthritis

Causes of Subchondral Sclerosis

Elsie Goycoolea
By Elsie Goycoolea. Updated: August 3, 2020
Causes of Subchondral Sclerosis

As science and medicine evolve, new and more efficient treatments are being designed to treat debilitating diseases. Subchondral sclerosis is characterized by showing as increased bone mass and density just below the cartilage area in people suffering from osteoarthritis. It is usually diagnosed through an X-ray during progressive stages of the condition when joint pain becomes more noticeable. Understanding what may increase the risks of subchondral sclerosis may help patients take appropriate preventative measures to lessen the impacts of developing osteoarthritis.

In this OneHowTo article we explain what are the causes of subchondral sclerosis.

You may also be interested in: Subchondral Sclerosis - Symptoms and Treatment


  1. Genetic factors
  2. Excess weight and obesity
  3. Physical movement and exercise
  4. Arm or leg injuries

Genetic factors

Studies indicate that there is a strong genetic predisposition for developing osteoarthritis (OA) and subchondral sclerosis. It is reported that certain gene mutations may lead to specific bone structures and joint malformations, hence increasing the chances of developing the disease. People born with abnormal joint structure may be placing extra pressure on certain joint points that could exacerbate the chances of suffering from subchondral sclerosis.

Additionally, women are more likely to experience symptoms of OA when entering the menopause phase. During menopause women tend to experience a drop in estrogen levels that has been linked to a loss of bone density and mass. Men on the other hand, are more likely to develop OA before the age of 50.

Causes of Subchondral Sclerosis - Genetic factors

Excess weight and obesity

Carrying excess weight and/or being overweight can be bearing on the joints. Bones have to support a stronger load and a greater effort is being required for everyday movement. Additionally, obesity tends to be correlated with leading a sedentary life, which can be detrimental to optimal bone health.

Another element of carrying excess weight around the body is being related to a higher level of inflammatory cytokines and toxins stored in adipose tissue. This may prove to be detrimental for cartilage tissue and joints. Higher inflammation levels in the body may onset attacks from the immune system on bone structure and cartilage tissue.

Physical movement and exercise

Physical activity is often recommended for optimal health. Weight training has been attributed to stronger bone health given that the body will respond to the stress of exercise by increasing bone mass and fueling strength. Resistance training will also strengthen muscle mass and connective tissue.

However, exercise can also be too strenuous on the body especially in the form of high impact exercise. Too much impact can cause excessive bone formation, micro-damage and vascular invasion, which may actually reduce joint elasticity and contribute to subchondral sclerosis.

Causes of Subchondral Sclerosis - Physical movement and exercise

Arm or leg injuries

Moving and exercising in a safe and controlled manner will prevent both short term and long term injuries. A large part of injury recovery is making sure that the joint or bone has healed completely and will not resurface later on.

A joint or bone injury can develop into post-traumatic OA. Meniscus, ligament or bone fractures tend to be fairly common for many athletes in competitive sports. These injuries often promote cartilage degeneration and further micro-damage that could onset the development of the first symptoms of subchondral sclerosis.

Causes of Subchondral Sclerosis - Arm or leg injuries

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Causes of Subchondral Sclerosis, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.

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Val Heide
2 years ago I had a man fall on me, I landed on my right hip, broke my left fibula and dislocated the ankle resulting in surgery, a plate, 8 screws and a tight rope thru the ankle bone. I have had hip pain get progressively worse since the fall. I went to the Doctor, he took x-rays, the findings were degenerative arthritis of the right hip with superior joint space narrowing and subchondral sclerosis. could this be a result of the fall or is it just aging? I'm 60
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Val,

We really couldn't tell, this would require diagnostic tests carried out by a physician. However, since arthritis is related to wearing of joints, trauma such as your fall could be part of this damage. It is possible it is a combination of both age and trauma.
kim clark
I injured my arm over 19 months ago and the MRI shows I have this subchondral sclerosis . would this injury cause this to happen
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Kim,

Yes, arm injuries can promote cartilage degeneration and micro-damage that could cause subchondral sclerosis to develop.
All the best with your recovery.
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Causes of Subchondral Sclerosis