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Bone Spurs (Osteophytes) FAQ

By AGE2B team
January 31, 2022

Bone spurs are bony projections or outgrowth of bone that develop along the edges of bones. It is also called an osteophyte. Bone spurs can form in any bone but are most commonly found in joints, where two or more bones come together. They also occur where muscles, ligaments, or tendons attach to the bone. Some of the most common parts of the body affected by bone spurs:

  • neck (cervical spine),
  • low back (lumbar spine),
  • shoulder, hip, knee, and heel,
  • temporomandibular joint,
    – hands, wrists, and feet.

Q: What are the symptoms of bone spurs?

Most bone spurs cause no signs or symptoms and may go undetected for years. In some cases, though, bone spurs can cause pain and loss of motion in your joints. Specific symptoms depend on where the bone spurs are.
  • Knee. Bone spurs in your knee may make it painful to extend and bend your leg.
  • Spine. Bone spurs occur in the spine can cause pain and loss of motion, and can also pinch the nerves or spinal cord that causes pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs.
  • Hip. Bone spurs can make it painful to move your hip, although you might feel the pain in your knee. Depending on their placement, bone spurs can reduce the range of motion in your hip joint.
  • Shoulder. Bone spurs can rub on your rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons that help control your shoulder movements. If the bone spurs rub against tendons or ligaments, they can cause pain or a tear. This is a common complication in the shoulder and can lead to a rotator cuff tear.
  • Fingers. Appearing as hard lumps under your skin.

Q: What causes osteophytes?

Joint damage from osteoarthritis is the most common cause of bone spurs. Bone spurs typically occur because of continued stress or rubbing of a bone for a prolonged period of time. With osteoarthritis, this cartilage layer becomes worn away, and the bones can rub directly against each other. New bone forms in response to the stress or inflammation. It is the bone’s method of trying to stabilize or protect itself.
There are other medical conditions that are commonly associated with bone spurs.
  • Plantar Fasciitis. This is an inflammation of the fascia or connective tissue on the bottom of the foot where it attaches to the heel bone or calcaneus.
  • Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH)
  • Ankylosing spondylitis is both inflammatory disorders that affect the body’s ligaments and cause bone spurs in the spine.

Q: What does it mean if I have an anterior osteophyte in my lower cervical vertebrae?

A: An osteophyte is sometimes called a “bone spur.” These are extra pieces of bone. The word “anterior” refers to the front part, and your cervical vertebrae are located in the upper or neck region of your spine. It sounds as though you have an extra bony growth on the front part of one of the vertebrae in your neck area. Sometimes these osteophytes can press on nerves and cause pain or numbness or tingling in the arms or the hands.

Q:  I have osteophytes of the cervical spine. Can I have manual treatment?

A: Osteophytes or “bone spurs” of the cervical spine can sometimes be caused by a great deal of degeneration. It is advisable to avoid any kind of manipulation because degeneration can cause instability of the spine. Manipulation may cause severe injury in this case. It’s better to try to treat your condition with a gentle range of motion and some isometric exercises.

Q:  Does anyone know what a “barnacle” is?  My father had leg pain and was seen by his physician. The X-ray showed a “barnacle” on one of the bones in his leg.  I could see a bump on the X-ray picture, and I can also feel it a little under the skin. What is the medical word for this?

A:  This might be an osteophyte. They are also sometimes called “bone spurs.”

Q:  What exactly are bone spurs? Do they cause pain? I have extreme pain in my heel. Could it be a bone spur?

A:  Bone spurs are extra bony outgrowths that form along or near edges of bones. They aren’t painful themselves, but they can cause pain when they irritate nerves and bones that are nearby.

Q: What are the treatment options for bone spurs?

  • Anti-inflammatory medications. This help both to relieve pain and to reduce the inflammation caused by the bone spurs.
  • Steroids. In some cases, an injection of a steroid into the joint can help reduce pain from bone spurs.
  • Physical therapy. It may not able to remove bone spurs but it can help with some of the symptoms related to them. If one has a loss of motion in a joint caused by bone spurs, physical therapy can help strengthen the surrounding muscles and increase the motion in the joints.
  • Surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the bone spurs to allow for a more normal joint or to remove the pressure on muscles, tendons, ligaments, or nerves.
  • Orthotics. Special pads or inserts for shoes called orthotics to help take the pressure off the bone spurs.

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