What are they?
You might’ve heard your elderly relatives talking at some point about bone spurs, but probably didn’t know what they were. Is it something you should be concerned about? How common are they? What type of treatment do they require? Is there anything you can do to prevent them?
Bone spurs, or osteophytes, are tiny bony projections that form along the edges of your bones, usually in a joint. This is usually the result of joint damage from osteoarthritis. When you have osteoarthritis, it causes the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones to break down. Your body tries to repair the area by creating more bone cells and this results in a bone spur. Typically, there aren’t any symptoms associated with bone spurs. Most people don’t even know that they have them until they are getting an X-ray for something else and the bone spur growth is found. Sometimes, the bone spur can cause swelling, pain and loss of motion to the affected joint. You can have bone spurs anywhere, but they are more common in the knee, spine, hip and heel.
If you’re having pain from a bone spur, the first step is to rest the area. Since the swelling is caused by inflammation, it can be helpful to place ice on the area. The next thing is to take over-the-counter pain medication, like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen. The only concern with these is that they can cause unwanted side effects if they are taken in large doses or for long periods of time. If you have been using any of them for more than a month, you should talk to your doctor about alternative treatment options. They might recommend you try physical therapy, which will help to improve joint strength and increase your movement. If the tissue surrounding the bone spur is swollen, your doctor may suggest steroid shots to area. This will help to not only decrease the swelling, but reduce the level of pain you’re experiencing because the swelling puts pressure on all of the surrounding tissue. If none of these solutions work or you’re having difficulty moving, you’ll probably need to have surgery to have the bone spur removed.
If your bone spurs are caused by arthritis, there isn’t much that you can do to prevent them. However, there are things that you can do starting when you’re young and continuing as you age that can help reduce your risk. It’s important to eat a well-balanced diet that includes calcium and vitamin D because this will help protect your bones. Also, it’s essential to do weight-bearing exercises frequently since this can strengthen your bones. Not being overweight is key so you don’t place significant amounts of stress on your bones. Wearing shoes that have enough room for your toes with good arch support and cushioning can be helpful. It’s vital that your shoes don’t rub against your feet as you walk. If you need to, wear thick socks to prevent this from occurring.
While having bone spurs might come as a surprise to some people, others have to deal with pain. By knowing what your treatment options are, you’ll be able to make an informed choice about what’s best for you. If you have any questions or concerns about bone spurs, please speak with your doctor. If you would like more information, please visit Cleveland Clinic’s Bone Spur page at https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10395-bone-spurs