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What Should You Do About Bone Spurs?

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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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Health Alerts registered users may post comments and share experiences here at their own discretion. We regret that questions on individual health concerns to the Johns Hopkins editors cannot be answered in this space.

The views expressed here do not constitute medical advice, and do not represent the position of Johns Hopkins Medicine or Remedy Health Media, LLC, which has no responsibility for any comments posted on this site.


I am 74 female and belong to health club and go 3 times a week. I had a parcial knee replacement in 2007 as I have OA. My other knee started bothering me and I had xray over a yr ago and I was 1/8th of and in. of being bone on bone which is what I had on other knee however my knee is giving me a lot of pain so I went to my ortho Dr. and had another xray recently and now I have about 7 or 8 bone spurs and one under the knee cap. He gave me an injection and said now I would have to have a full knee replacement. I was not wanting to hear this at all. I live in Mo. but my Dr. Robert Gardiner does his surgery in Ks. I understand they have knee replacements that are Signature Custom Designed as knee are all different sizes. I will be asking my Dr. if he will do this procedure. Is there anyway to avoid full knee replacement for me?

Posted by: Marti1936 | January 11, 2011 12:59 PM

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