Bone Spurs

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.

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Juhi Modi Medical Writer
Medically reviewed by 

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

Bone spurs in the knee with advanced osteoartritis

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.

Symptoms of bone spurs

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.

What does a bone spur look like?

A bone spur is a smooth, hard outgrowth or bump that develops over a long time.1,2

Bone spur in the foot
Where do bone spurs occur?
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Spine
  • Hands
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Heels

Typical causes of bone spurs

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

Other causes of bone spurs2
  • Injuries
  • Overuse (for example, in runners and dancers)
  • Hereditary
  • Diet
  • Obesity
  • Bone problems present from birth
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spaces in the spine)
Bone spurs in the spine

Treatment and pain relief

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.

Exercise examples

  1. sitting foot stretches I
    10 reps x 3 sets

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    Sitting foot stretches

    This exercise provides a deep stretch to the foot and can ease tension and improve mobility if you have a heel spur.

    • Sit on a chair with your legs bent.
    • Place the exercise band under the foot just behind the toes.
    • Grab the exercise band with one hand and tighten it.
    • Move your foot up and down while holding the exercise band to create resistance in the downward movement.
    • Go as far as possible in both directions.
    • Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions with each leg.
  2. Cycling exercise with back on floor
    40 sec.

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    Cycling exercise with back on floor

    This exercise relieves knee pain and stiffness. It also strengthens the muscles surrounding the knee joint. This helps reduce symptoms from a bone spur in the knee.

    • Lay down on your back.
    • Bike with your feet in the air.
    • Bike "forward" for 20 seconds then "backward" for 20 sec.
  3. Front hip stretch I
    30 sec. x 3 sets

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    Front hip stretch

    This exercise reduces bone spur discomfort by stretching and loosening up the hip joint. The exercise also strengthens the hip joint muscles. Strong hip muscles take the pressure off the joint and relieve bone spur pain.

    • Take a wide stance with your legs quite far apart.
    • Support yourself with a hand on a chair or something similar if necessary.
    • Bend the front leg and move your pelvis in a straight line towards the floor.
    • Keep your body straight without leaning forward or backwards.
    • Be sure not to sway in your lower back.
    • You should feel the stretch in the front of your hip.
    • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and perform 3 repetitions with each leg.

Surgery for bone spurs

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

How long does it take to recover from bone spur surgery?

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

Can bone spurs be prevented?

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.

Diagnosis of bone spurs

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

When to see a doctor about a bone spur

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

Treat your bone spurs the natural way

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.

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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.