Osteoarthritis is a degradation of the articular cartilage. In this regard, osteoarthritis is divided into different stages: it starts with soft cartilage and as it progresses, the surface becomes rough and torn. In the end stage there is complete cartilage loss with exposed bone. All people experience normal wear on the cartilage in their joints during their lives. These days, this mechanical wear of the articular cartilage is intensified because people are living longer and thus use their joints longer. In addition, the wear can be accelerated by excess weight, accidents (minor incidents such as sprains or twists), sports that put stress on the joints (such as football or tennis), certain professions, and congenital bone malformations. All of these factors have resulted in a strong increase in joint osteoarthritis in recent years.


Genetic (family history), inflammatory (infection, arthritis), metabolic (deposits) and mechanical (obesity, sports, malalignment, natural aging) causes may accelerate this imbalance and the resulting osteoarthritis. There is currently no cure for osteoarthritis. It is known that factors such as obesity or improper loading of a joint, for example through an innate or accident-related malalignment, or the frequent carrying of heavy loads, can play a part in the development of osteoarthritis. People who continually place their joints under extreme stress (for example, athletes), or those who suffer injury with damage to the joint are particularly at risk.


Osteoarthritis often develops slowly over several years. Because of the osteoarthritis, there are areas in the joints that are no longer protected by cartilage. In contrast to cartilage, bones have pain receptors, which trigger stress-related joint pain. As osteoarthritis progresses, it leads to characteristic waves of pain when stress is put on the joints (e.g. while climbing stairs), at rest, and particularly at night. The intervals between painful episodes also become shorter as the condition progresses. This is accompanied by inflammation and swelling of the joint, restricted movement and shortening of the muscles, increasing deformation of the joint and eventually the inability to walk. With time, the pain of osteoarthritis and the consequential unstable gait can take over your life. You gradually lose your independence and your usual activities are restricted. You become increasingly dependent on painkillers and assistive devices (such as canes or shoe inserts), and require external help to manage your daily life.


Severe hip pain with accompanying disability, such as a limping gait or difficulty getting dressed, must be carefully assessed. After the specialist has discussed with you when and in what form the pain occurs, a thorough clinical examination of your hip joint will be undertaken to evaluate and localise the pain as well as to evaluate limitations on your range of motion, differences in leg length and muscle strength. A radiological assessment of the affected joint will also be undertaken. If there is any uncertainty, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be carried out to enable more accurate evaluation of the condition of the cartilage. When all of these examinations have been completed, the results will be discussed with you in detail and decisions made on the appropriate steps to take.

«Your mobility is our top priority»
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Centre for Joint and Sport Surgery
Pyramid Clinic
Bellerivestrasse 34
CH-8034 Zürich

+41 44 388 16 16
+41 44 388 16 00


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