Bone spurs are abnormal, bony growths at the end of bones. They are most commonly located in the spine or other weight-bearing joints.
Bone spurs may grow on the ends of bones in any part of the body. The spurs have no protective cartilage, as other bones do, and may rub against other bones,blood vessels, or nerves. The spurs may cause slight discomfort, or severe pain.
Causes & symptoms:
Bone spurs have several possible causes. Some are a result of osteoarthritis. This condition begins without symptoms from age 20-30, and is marked by the loss of cartilage in the joints. Once the cartilage is gone, there is no cushion to protect the joints from the strain of physical activity or bearing weight. The bones rub together and bone spurs may grow in and around the joints. By the age of 70, almost everyone is afflicted with this condition. Bone spurs can also be found in older adults who have disk problems. As people grow older, the disks in the spinal column can become tough and shrink. The distance between the vertebrae decreases as the disks shrink, and bone spurs, or knobby growths, then appear on the vertebrae. Bone spurs are also found in those who have placed an excessive amount of stress on their bodies, such as dancers, athletes, and laborers.
Spurs in particular regions of the spine may cause pain in a specific area. Those located in the upper vertebrae of the neck (cervical region) may cause stiffness and pain in the back and neck.Spurs located in the feet can be particularly painful. Bone spurs occur most often on the heel (heel spurs), but can be found on any part of the foot that has been under pressure. This condition can be caused by shoes that fit improperly, excessive use, or heredity.Most bone spurs cause pain because of their movement against nerves or other bones. Pain or stiffness in the back or neck, or tingling in the hands, arms, or neck, can indicate bone spurs on the spine. Headaches and dizziness may also occur, and a person may not be able to keep balanced. A heel spur can cause a sharp pain when weight is placed on one or both feet. If there is a severe, shooting pain in the neck or back with slight movement, this could be a sign of a bone spur pinching a nerve or interfering with muscle movement.
A medical practitioner may order a computer assisted tomography (CAT) scan or x ray to rule out other causes of back pain and to help locate any bone spurs that exist. An electromyography (EMG) can look at the condition of nerves that supply muscles to see if they are affected by bone spurs. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can look at bones, nerves, and disks to check for abnormalities.
Exercise and a healthy weight are key ingredients to managing the pain associated with bone spurs. Exercise may be limited by the location of the spur and its effects on movement. Swimming or other forms of water activity, such as water aerobics, may be less stressful for the body, and can also increase flexibility and mobility. Weight loss can also be beneficial in alleviating the pain associated with bone spurs, since less weight puts less stress on any joints which are lacking cartilage or plagued with bone spurs.There are several options for managing the pain caused by bone spurs and increasing movement. A chiropractor may use manipulation and physical therapy to relieve pain associated with bone spurs in the vertebrae. Physical therapy may also increase movement of the affected area. Acupuncture can be used to relieve some joint pain. A homeopath will assess more than a patient’s physical condition to determine the proper remedy. The types of conditions that trigger the pain are important information for a homeopath. Guided imagery can help alleviate pain. Feldenkrais method can be used to retrain the body’s movement when it is inhibited by pain. Yoga is another movement therapy that can help decrease the stress placed on affected areas, as well as help the body to relax and strengthen muscles. Sodium in the diet may help break down calcium so that it can be resorbed into the blood. Those on a low-sodium diet for health reasons should talk to their doctors before increasing the sodium in their diets.
A doctor will usually prescribe anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to help relieve pain. Resting and keeping pressure off of the affected area can also help diminish the pain. A back or neck brace can provide additional support and relieve pressure. A foam cushion placed in the shoe, with a hole cut out for the spur, can help relieve the pain of a spur on the foot. Severe cases may call for surgery, but this relief may be temporary, since bone spurs can grow back in the same place.
Once bone spurs form, patients can use different therapies to manage the pain associated with this ailment and to help improve their range of movement. While surgery may be used to remove a bone spur in severe cases, there is a chance that another could grow to take its place.
Maintaining a healthy body weight and reducing stress on one’s joints are steps individuals can take to reduce the chance of bone spurs. Exercises which work the muscles of the whole body, such as walking, biking, swimming, and tennis, are recommended for weight loss and muscle strength.