Treatment strategies for osteoarthritis most commonly involve the removal or replacement of damaged joint tissue. Relatively few treatments attempt to arrest, slow down or reverse the disease process. Such options include peri-articular osteotomy around the hip or knee, and treatment of femoro-acetabular impingement, where early intervention may potentially alter the natural history of the disease. A relatively small proportion of patients with osteoarthritis have a clear predisposing factor that is both suitable for modification and who present early enough for intervention to be deemed worthwhile. This paper reviews recent advances in our understanding of the pathology, imaging and progression of early osteoarthritis.