A bone spur is exactly what it sounds like – an outgrowth developing along a bone’s edge. The formal name for bone spur is osteophyte. A bone spur may occur anywhere, but is most often found in joints, or anywhere tendons, muscles or ligaments become attached to the bone.
Bone spurs on the spine are also common. If you experience pain and/or changes in a joint’s range of motion, visit a skilled spine doctor for a definite diagnosis and treatment.
Bone Spur Causes
Arthritis is the major cause of bone spurs. Over time, wear and tear results in degeneration.
There is also a genetic development to developing bone spurs, so people with a family history of osteophytes are more likely to suffer from them. In women, bone spurs tend to appear after menopause.
While most risk factors for bone spurs are beyond a patient’s control, a few measures can reduce the odds of bone spur development. These include:
- Practicing good posture
- Staying at a healthy weight
- Avoiding high impact sports
Many people have bone spurs and no symptoms. However, when bone spurs do cause pain, they can hinder mobility. Bone spur symptoms depend on their location. For example:
- Fingers – in the fingers, bones spurs appear as knobby lumps
- Heel – bone spurs in the heel are often associated with plantar fasciitis, a painful condition affecting the ligament running along the sole and connecting at the heel
- Hip – in the hip, bone spurs make movement painful and reduce the range of motion
- Knee – bone spurs in the knee can make leg bending and extension difficult
- Neck – along with pain, bone spurs may trigger headaches
- Shoulder – bone spurs in the shoulder often affect the rotator cuff, resulting in pain and movement limitation
- Spine – bone spurs in the spine usually cause neurological symptoms, such as weakness, tingling, and numbness
Generally, bone spur pain increases after physical exertion, and improves to a degree after the patient rests. Overall, bone spur symptoms include swelling and movement issues. Patients experiencing these symptoms should visit a doctor to get to the bottom of their joint and/or mobility problems.
Diagnosing Bone Spurs
In some cases, the doctor can feel the bone spur during a physical examination. In general, bones spurs are diagnosed via X-ray. Other tests include electromyography, or EMG. Through these tests, the level of nerve injury is discerned.
Other conditions with similar symptoms are ruled out via an EMG. An MRI or CT scan reveals the depth of nerve compression and changes in the spine.
The conservative approach, such as over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories for pain relief, is the first line of treatment for most bone spurs.
The doctor may recommend physical therapy, which can help with range of motion issues while not actually affecting the bone spur itself.
If the pain does not subside, a steroid injection into the affected area can bring long-term relief. If conservative treatment fails, or the pain is severe and neurological symptoms are involved, surgery for bone spur removal may prove necessary. A laminectomy removes bone spurs impinging on nerves, resulting not only in pain relief but a return to neurological functioning.
Contacting a Spine Surgeon
If you suspect you have bone spurs or any other spinal issue, contact an experienced spine doctor today and make an appointment for an examination.