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OBJECTIVE: To provide a historical perspective and narrative review on research into the molecular pathogenesis of osteoarthritis pain. DESIGN: PubMed databases were searched for combinations of "osteoarthritis", "pain" and "animal models" for papers that represented key phases in the history of osteoarthritis pain discovery research including epidemiology, pathology, imaging, preclinical modeling and clinical trials. RESULTS: The possible anatomical sources of osteoarthritis pain were identified over 50 years ago, but relatively slow progress has been made in understanding the apparent disconnect between structural changes captured by radiography and symptom severity. Translationally relevant animal models of osteoarthritis have aided in our understanding of the structural and molecular drivers of osteoarthritis pain, including molecules such as nerve growth factor and C-C motif chemokine ligand 2. Events leading to persistent osteoarthritis pain appear to involve a two-step process involving changes in joint innervation, including neo-innervation of the articular cartilage, as well as sensitization at the level of the joint, dorsal root ganglion and central nervous system. CONCLUSIONS: There remains a great need for the development of treatments to reduce osteoarthritis pain in patients. Harnessing all that we have learned over the past several decades is helping us to appreciate the important interaction between structural disease and pain, and this is likely to facilitate development of new disease modifying therapies in the future.

Original publication




Journal article


Osteoarthritis cartilage

Publication Date



Animal models, Nerve growth factor, Osteoarthritis, Pain, Sensitization