The techniques mu Proton-Induced X- and gamma-ray Emission, mu-PIXE and mu-PIGE, were used to investigate trace and essential element distributions in sections of normal and osteoarthritic (OA) human femoral head. mu-PIGE yielded 2-D mappings of Na and F while Ca, Z, P and S were mapped by mu-PIXE. The concentration of chondroitin sulphate supporting functionality in healthy cartilage is significantly reduced in OA samples. Localised Zn points to osteoblastic/osteoclastic activity at the bone-cartilage interface. Small-angle X-ray scattering applied to decalcified OA-affected tissue showed spatial alterations of collagen fibres of decreased axial periodicity compared to normal collagen type I.