Osteophytes / Bone Spurs

What are bone spurs?

Bone spurs are bony projections that develop along the edge of the bone. Unlike their name, bone spurs do not spur or poke; instead, they are smooth, hard bumps of extra bone that form where bones meet each other at the joints. Bone spurs are not limited to specific areas as they can form in many parts of the body, such as:

  • Spine
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Hands
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Feet

Most bone spurs are benign, but if they rub against other bones or press on nerves, then pain and stiffness may occur. 

Osteophyte is the medical term for a bone spur which represents an enlargement of the normal bony structure.

Symptoms of bone spurs

When your body thinks a bone is subjected to increased stress or force across a joint, the natural reaction is for the body to fix the injured area or reinforce the area that has more stress and it does this by adding bone to that area. Unfortunately, this is also how bone spurs are created.

Often, bone spurs go unnoticed until they cause problems by pressing on a nerve, or grow into the area around a joint, tendons, or other structures in the body. When that happens, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Pain in the affected joint
  • Synovial cysts
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in arms and legs
  • Limited range of motion in joints
  • Muscle spasms or cramps
  • Bumps under the skin in the form of cysts

In the absence of symptoms, bone spurs are typically discovered when an X-ray, MRI, or other tests are administered for another condition, and through these methods, a bone spur is revealed.

Treatments for bone spurs

Conservative treatments

Over-the-counter pain medication, nutriceuticals, and steroid injections may help relieve pain and reduce swelling caused by bone spurs. Additionally, physical and chiropractic therapy treatments and stretching can improve the strength of the muscles around joints and improve the range of motion. 

Surgical treatments

If conservative treatment options do not work or if the bone spurs affect your movement and quality of life, surgery might be needed to remove the extra bone. In the spine, the procedures called a Laminectomy, Foraminotomy and occasionally Discectomy are all procedures that are designed to relieve the pain and neurological symptoms by removing the bone spurs and ligaments that are causing the painful nerve compression. The majority of patients who undergo surgery for bone spurs experience great results, often gaining years of relief and improved quality of life.

If bone spurs are causing pain and impacting your quality of life, ‘spur’ yourself to action and schedule a consultation so you can discover your options.