Why do you get osteoarthritis?

As you have discovered, osteoarthritis is a very common condition.

There is not one simple reason why you may have osteoarthritis – it is more likely a combination of non-modifiable and modifiable factors.



Non-modifiable factors

(things that raise your chance of getting osteoarthritis that we cannot affect)

Cartilage is a living tissue that can age and weaken over the years. Osteoarthritis can happen at the early age of 30. However, people are more likely to have osteoarthritis after the age of 50.


Women get osteoarthritis more often than men. Women get osteoarthritis more often in the knees and hands. Men get osteoarthritis more often in the hips.


Delicate cartilage can run in the family. So, you are more likely to get osteoarthritis if someone in your family had it too.









Modifiable factors

(things that can be modified to reduce the risk or reduce the severity of osteoarthritis)

Being overweight puts more load on the joint. This can increase the risk of osteoarthritis in the knee. The risk of hand and hip osteoarthritis also increases with obesity. This tells us that other things about being overweight can be linked to getting osteoarthritis.


Little or no load on cartilage is not enough for regeneration. This happens when someone is not active enough.

Cartilage needs a healthy amount of load to regenerate.







Weak muscles won’t provide proper support to a joint. This leads to more loads being applied to areas of cartilage that don’t take weight well. This can overload the cartilage and increase the risk for knee osteoarthritis.





Half of all people with a severe knee injury (meniscus or cruciate ligament injury), often from sports, get osteoarthritis 10-15 years later. Most people hurt their knee as a teenager, which means that they can get osteoarthritis in their 30s. Top level sports can cause great loads on the whole body without allowing for regeneration. This can lead to degeneration of cartilage.

Lots of load over a long period of time without rest can cause osteoarthritis later in life. People who work as labourers (farmers, firefighters, etc.) are more at risk of hip and knee osteoarthritis. Teachers seem to get more hand osteoarthritis.

Next – How do I know if I have knee osteoarthritis?