Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that causes your joints and cartilage to deteriorate over time. It is one of the most common types of arthritis, and over half a million people worldwide are living with this condition. In addition, its incidence and prevalence have increased significantly over the last few decades.

Subchondral sclerosis is a condition that sometimes develops along with osteoarthritis. Read on to learn what it is, what causes this complication, and the available treatment options.

Overview of Subchondral Sclerosis

Subchondral sclerosis occurs when the bone below the joint cartilage starts to thicken [1], and it is considered a key indicator of OA. It is important to note that this condition is not associated with other types, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

While the condition can impact most of the bones in your body, the ones that support the weight of your body are most likely to develop subchondral sclerosis. This includes your knees, hips, hands, feet, and spine.

Those who suffer from subchondral sclerosis spine may notice problems with posture and back pain, but there are several treatment options.

The Impact of Osteoarthritis on Subchondral Bone

It’s important to note there is no actual subchondral bone in your body. The term subchondral refers to a specific area of the bone that can thicken unnaturally. When it occurs along with osteoarthritis, subchondral sclerosis usually develops in the bones underneath the joint cartilage.

Subchondral Sclerosis: Causes and Risk Factors

The causes of subchondral sclerosis are still not completely clear, but researchers have discovered several potential risk factors, including:

  • Age: As we age, the risk of developing subchondral sclerosis increases.
  • Menopause: This complication is common among postmenopausal women.
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese puts you at greater risk for subchondral sclerosis.
  • Heredity: Genetics may play a role in the development of the condition.
  • Joint Stress: Sustained stress on specific joints can cause cartilage damage, lead to osteoarthritis, and potentially contribute to subchondral sclerosis.

Subchondral Sclerosis Symptoms

There is a strong connection between the symptoms of subchondral sclerosis and osteoarthritis [2]. When there is significant bone enlargement close to joints, it can lead to issues with mobility and damaged cartilage.

However, they are the same symptoms as you experience with osteoarthritis alone. The specific issues will depend on the severity of the condition. Some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis with subchondral sclerosis include:

  • Pain in the affected joints
  • Redness
  • Tenderness, especially to the touch
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness leading to mobility issues

When Does Subchondral Sclerosis Develop?

People who have recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis are often concerned about the development of subchondral sclerosis and when it may occur. However, it is essential to note that this complication usually does not develop with early-stage osteoarthritis but is associated with more advanced disease progression.


The Link Between Subchondral Sclerosis and Cyst Formation

A subchondral cyst is another possible complication that can develop alongside osteoarthritis. In most cases, the cysts cause no symptoms, which makes them challenging to diagnose. Physicians often detect them for the first time on an X-ray as fluid-filled sacs on the cartilage surface, which is the tissue that cushions your bones and joints.

Research indicates that cysts are common among osteoarthritis sufferers. One study [3] examined their prevalence among knee osteoarthritis patients and concluded that 31% of the 806 participants had a cyst.

Subchondral cysts are unlike other types of cysts, as they lack a layer of protective cells surrounding them. In addition, they tend to harden over time, as if they are starting to push into the bone. It’s important to understand that, while there are similarities, these cysts are not the same as bone spurs.

Similar to subchondral sclerosis, there is no one specific treatment for this type of cyst, and the methods will be part of your complete arthritis treatment plan.

How is Subchondral Sclerosis Diagnosed?

Since subchondral sclerosis usually occurs with osteoarthritis, doctors won’t usually diagnose it as an independent condition. In most cases, your physician will only discover subchondral sclerosis when they run X-rays and other tests to check on the progress of your osteoarthritis.

When conducting these tests, the doctor may notice an enlargement of the bone in the area of the affected joint. At this point, the doctor will likely employ other diagnostic tools to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Subchondral Sclerosis

Your doctor will likely inform you that there are no specific pharmaceutical treatments for subchondral sclerosis. However, several other options may help, depending on the severity of your condition. The physician may suggest some of these methods to help manage your symptoms.

  • Physical Therapy: Regular physical therapy can improve your range of motion and ease joint stiffness, and the physical therapist can also teach you exercises to do at home. This can help you follow through with the treatment plan over the long term for lasting results.
  • Weight Loss: Excess weight puts added pressure on your joints, so losing weight is an excellent way to reduce the impact of subchondral sclerosis and osteoarthritis.
  • Injections: If weight loss and physical therapy don’t help, your doctor may recommend injections to reduce inflammation in the affected area. However, the physician may suggest starting with oral anti-inflammatory medication first.
  • Surgery: In advanced cases of subchondral sclerosis, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for surgical care. The surgical options available to you depend on several factors, including the severity of the subchondral sclerosis symptoms.

In addition to these methods, natural alternatives on the market support joint health and relieve pain, inflammation, and other arthritis symptoms. For example, Flexoplex Joint Health Supplement is an organic formula that strengthens joints and eases symptoms like stiffness and pain for improved flexibility and mobility.

Another supplement we recommend is Bonexcin for healthy bones, which provides needed nutrients, improves bone density, and hinders age-related bone loss. It’s an optimal supplement that supports long-term bone health and prevents degeneration.

Flexdermal pain relief cream is a powerful, all-natural formula for relieving joint and muscle discomfort. It’s simple to apply and gets to work quickly by easing joint and muscle pain, reducing stiffness, and enhancing comfort, flexibility, and mobility.


Can subchondral sclerosis be cured?

There isn’t a specific cure for subchondral sclerosis. However, if you have osteoarthritis, your doctor can give you medications that help to slow the progression of this joint disease, including sclerosis.

What stage of osteoarthritis is subchondral sclerosis?

Subchondral sclerosis does not generally occur until the later stages of joint and cartilage degeneration and is considered a sign of more advanced osteoarthritis.

Is subchondral sclerosis a disability?

Subchondral sclerosis is not necessarily a disability on its own. However, osteoarthritis could be disabling depending on the impact it has on you or a loved one. In severe cases, the condition can lead to significant difficulty with mobility.


Subchondral sclerosis is not a condition itself but rather an indicator of osteoarthritis. You may experience pain and extra tenderness if you have this complication. While there is no specific treatment, there are methods your doctor can utilize to reduce bone thickening and slow the progression of osteoarthritis.


1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6549114
2] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/osteoarthritis
3] https://openorthopaedicsjournal.com/VOLUME/8/PAGE/7/

Dr. Ahmed Zayad

Dr. Ahmed Zayad

Dr. Zayed, has years of experience in the field and has been contributing to public health awareness. Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. Egypt. Dr. Zayed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. His articles were featured on many websites like HuffingtonPost, Chicagotribune . Other than his passion for writing, Dr. Zayed spends his time outside the hospital, either reading or at the gym.

Written by Dr. Ahmed Zayad

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