A bone spur is an actual growth on a bone that is also referred to as an osteophyte. These bony growths can form on any bone, but are often found in joints or where ligaments and tendons connect to a bone. Bone spurs are common in the feet, shoulders, hands, hips, spine and knees.
The first step to treating a bone spur is to recognize the symptoms of bone spurs. Bone spurs form because of pressure or stress put on a bone, but they can go undetected for many years until they start to cause a person discomfort. Pain and swelling in joints or visible changes such as corns and calluses are common symptoms of bone spurs.
Doctors diagnose bone spurs in a variety of ways. First, they look at the age, symptoms and physical activity of the patient. Individuals with osteoarthritis often develop bone spurs due to cartilage being broken down and the body trying to repair itself. Athletes or those who work in physically demanding jobs also have a higher tendency to develop bone spurs due to wear and tear on their joints and bones. If a doctor cannot diagnose a bone spur by feeling it, he will use X-rays, CT scans or MRI scans to determine if a bone spur is present.
Many times, the symptoms of bone spurs can be treated without medication or surgery. To relieve pain and swelling, patients can do a variety of things to take the pressure off the affected area. For individuals who are overweight, simply losing weight can relieve pressure on the joints and alleviate some of the pain from bone spurs. Stretching and physical therapy can also go a long way toward easing bone spur inflammation and pressure, as can using ice on the affected area and resting when joint pain becomes bothersome.
Swelling is a common symptom of bone spurs and along with that comes pain and discomfort. If non-medical treatments do not alleviate symptoms, patients should use ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These medications reduce swelling and also help to reduce the pain caused by the bone spurs. In cases where bone spurs are causing excessive pain and discomfort, doctors may use a corticosteroid injection to reduce swelling.
Surgery is the final and most extreme option for treating bone spurs. Surgeons can remove bone spurs by making an incision that opens up the skin around the bone spur, also referred to as an open procedure, or by arthroscopic surgery, in which small incisions are made and special tools and a camera are used to perform the surgery without opening up the skin. Surgery usually is reserved for patients whose bone spurs are impeding their ability to function normally or hindering their range of motion.