Age-related changes in the musculoskeletal system and the development of osteoarthritis

Clin Geriatr Med. 2010 Aug;26(3):371-86. doi: 10.1016/j.cger.2010.03.002.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common cause of chronic disability in older adults. Although classically considered a "wear and tear" degenerative condition of articular joints, recent studies have demonstrated an inflammatory component to OA that includes increased activity of several cytokines and chemokines in joint tissues that drive production of matrix-degrading enzymes. Rather than directly causing OA, aging changes in the musculoskeletal system contribute to the development of OA by making the joint more susceptible to the effects of other OA risk factors that include abnormal biomechanics, joint injury, genetics, and obesity. Age-related sarcopenia and increased bone turnover may also contribute to the development of OA. Understanding the basic mechanisms by which aging affects joint tissues should provide new targets for slowing or preventing the development of OA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Chondrocytes / pathology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Musculoskeletal System / pathology*
  • Musculoskeletal System / physiopathology
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology
  • Osteoarthritis / etiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors