Johns Hopkins Health Alert
What Should You Do About Bone Spurs?
Bone spurs -- also called osteophytes -- are benign, bony bumps that usually form on the joints. Most are harmless and never detected. But if they limit your movement or cause pain, treatment is available. Here’s what you should know.
To some extent, bone spurs are just a normal part of aging; your body may produce them to compensate for gradual bone loss that occurs overtime. Bone spurs may also be a result of arthritis or other bone diseases. As cartilage in the joints wears away in arthritis patients, bones begin to rub directly against each other and bone spurs develop. These bumps may protrude into surrounding tendons or break off and float in the space within joints, causing swelling or interfering with range of motion.
In the spine, bone spurs may lead to stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal) and exert pressure on the nerves, causing muscle weakness, tingling, loss of coordination, or radiating pain in the buttocks, thighs, or shoulders. Bone spurs in the spine's cervical region can push into the throat, making it difficult to swallow or breathe. Symptoms like these may indicate diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH), a condition characterized by multiple bone spurs and ossified ligaments, usually in the spine (though DISH can affect other areas of the body).
If you are experiencing symptoms, your doctor will examine you and possibly order x-rays or other imaging tests. The best way to treat a bone spur is by addressing the underlying cause. In addition to arthritis and other medical conditions like DISH, excess weight, bad posture, old athletic injuries, or even shoes that don't fit well may be to blame.
Conservative therapy usually involves rest, icing, stretching, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs ). Also, even though your symptoms may seem to worsen with movement, targeted physical therapy exercises can restore range of motion in the joints and promote good posture (which reduces pressure on nerves). For temporary relief of serious pain, you may be given cortisone shots.
Surgical removal is an option for more severe symptoms, particularly if you already require surgery for arthritis. Some people choose to have bone spurs taken out for cosmetic reasons, especially when the hands are affected. Removal can be performed through open or laparoscopic procedures.
Posted in Arthritis on October 19, 2009
Reviewed October 2011
Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer
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