Bone spurs are abnormal growths that develop on the edges of bones. They can lead to pain and loss of movement in different parts of your body, including your knees, spine, and hips.
Symptoms of bone spurs
What does a bone spur look like?
Typical causes of bone spurs
Treatment and pain relief
Surgery for bone spurs
How long does it take to recover from bone spur surgery?
Can bone spurs be prevented?
Diagnosis of bone spurs
When to see a doctor about a bone spur
Treat your bone spurs the natural way
A bone spur is an abnormal growth or bony projection. It typically develops along the edge of a bone. The medical name for a bone spur is osteophyte. Bone spurs frequently occur near joints (where two bones meet).1
It is quite common to develop bone spurs as you get older. Oftentimes, the bone spur does not cause you any symptoms. You may not even be aware that you have a bone spur until it shows up on an X-ray. However, some bone spurs can be very painful and lead to a loss of movement in the joint.1
In this informative guide, we explain the symptoms and causes of bone spurs. We also talk about the diagnosis and treatment options available to you. We introduce you to some physical therapy exercises that can relieve your symptoms.
Looking for a solution to bone spurs? Try the Injurymap exercise app now.
Most of the time, bone spurs do not cause you any problems. However, sometimes a bone spur can rub against a bone or press upon a nerve, giving rise to pain and other symptoms.
A bone spur is a smooth, hard outgrowth or bump that develops over a long time.1,2
The most common cause of bone spurs is osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear of the joints as we grow older. The cartilage that serves as a cushion in the joint breaks down. The body attempts to repair the damage with the formation of new bone, leading to the formation of bone spurs near the damaged joint.3
- Overuse (for example, in runners and dancers)
- Bone problems present from birth
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spaces in the spine)
There are many exercises and stretches you can do from home that are good for dealing with painful bone spurs around the body. These exercises improve joint strength and increase mobility.
Conservative treatment is usually enough to manage bone spurs in most people. This includes pain medications and steroid shots for temporary pain relief. Physical therapy exercises help to restore joint flexibility and strength. This reduces pressure on the nerves and relieves the symptoms of bone spurs.
However, if bone spurs are causing serious pain, limitation of motion, or pressure upon nerves, they may need to be removed surgically. The surgery can be performed in a minimally invasive manner (keyhole surgery). During this type of procedure, the surgeon removes pieces of bone through a small incision. Open surgery may be required if the surgeon wishes to remove the entire bone spur.4
The recovery time for bone spur surgery depends on the type of surgery and the site of surgery. In general, recovery is faster after minimally invasive surgery compared to open surgery. Full recovery from bone spur removal in the spine can take anywhere from 10 days to a few weeks.5 Severe osteoarthritis and bone spur formation in the knee may require total knee replacement. This can take up to 1 year of recovery time.6 Recovery from a heel bone spur removal takes about 3 months. During the recovery period, you may need to be non-weight-bearing on the affected leg with crutches or a cane. You may need to wear a cast, splint, or walking boot for a few weeks.7
The most common cause of bone spurs is osteoarthritis. This is natural wear and tear that occurs with age and cannot be prevented. However, you can do certain things to prevent bone spur formation, such as:2,3
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet with enough calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for healthy bones.
- Keep your bones strong by doing regular weight-bearing exercises.
- Reduce stress on your joints by strengthening the surrounding muscles.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Excess weight puts pressure on your joints, causing the cartilage to break down faster, leading to the formation of bone spurs.
- Wear well-fitted and well-cushioned shoes with good arch support. Your shoes should not rub against your feet when you walk or run. The toe box should be wide enough to be comfortable.
Your family doctor may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation if you have symptoms of a bone spur. The specialist could be an orthopedic doctor (bone and muscle specialist) or a rheumatologist (joint specialist). The doctor will perform a physical examination to feel around the joint for the source of your pain. They may order imaging studies like an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI scan to see if a bone spur is in fact causing your symptoms. Sometimes, the specialist may order an electroconductive test to measure electrical signals in your nerves. This test can show whether a bone spur has caused damage to the nerves in your spinal canal, for example.3
In most cases, exercises can help to ease your symptoms from a bone spur. However, you should make an appointment to see a doctor if you have severe pain, swelling in the joint, or difficulty moving the joint.3
Bone spurs can be very painful and can lead to a significant reduction in joint mobility. This can reduce your ability to perform various daily tasks and recreational activities. Fortunately, you can slow the progression of osteoarthritis and bone spur growth with physical therapy exercises.
The Injurymap app has a range of exercises for every part of the body. This includes all the parts of the body that can potentially develop bone spurs. You can use the app to perform stretching and strengthening exercises to relieve the pressure on your joints. The app shows you how to do each exercise with the correct form and technique. You can work out in the comfort of your home with little to no equipment.
Remember, osteoarthritis and bone spurs progress over time, so prevention is important. The earlier you begin exercising, the more successful you will be in reducing the pain from bone spurs. Try the Injurymap app today to ease your bone spur pain.
About the author
Juhi Modi has two decades of experience as a medical writer with varied interests and an enduring passion for health, biology, and science. She uses her educational background in medicine to write science-backed articles for clients around the world.