Neuromodulation as a Potential Disease-Modifying Therapy for Osteoarthritis

Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2023 Jan;25(1):1-11. doi: 10.1007/s11926-022-01094-2. Epub 2022 Nov 26.


Purpose of review: The following review discusses the therapeutic potential of targeting the autonomic nervous system (ANS) for osteoarthritis (OA) treatment and encourages the field to consider the candidacy of bioelectronic medicine as a novel OA treatment strategy.

Recent findings: The study of OA pathogenesis has focused on changes occurring at the joint level. As such, treatments for OA have been aimed at the local joint environment, intending to resolve local inflammation and decrease pain. However, OA pathogenesis has shown to be more than joint wear and tear. Specifically, OA-related peripheral and central sensitization can prompt neuroplastic changes in the nervous system beyond the articular joint. These neuroplastic changes may alter physiologic systems, like the neuroimmune axis. In this way, OA and related comorbidities may share roots in the form of altered neuroimmune communication and autonomic dysfunction. ANS modulation may be able to modify OA pathogenesis or reduce the impact of OA comorbidities. Moreover, blocking chronic nociceptive drive from the joint may help to prevent maladaptive nervous system plasticity in OA.

Keywords: Neuroimmune axis; Osteoarthritis; Vagus nerve stimulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Osteoarthritis* / therapy
  • Pain