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. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones breaks down. Your body tries to repair the area by creating more bone cells, resulting in a bone spur. Typically, there aren’t any symptoms associated with bone spurs. Most people don’t even know they have them until they get 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, placing ice on the area can be helpful. Next, 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 taken in large doses or for long periods. 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. It’ll help decrease the swelling and 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 surgery to remove the bone spur.


If your bone spurs are caused by arthritis, there isn’t much 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. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes calcium and vitamin D is vital 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 put significant stress on your bones. Wearing shoes with enough room for your toes, good arch support, and plenty of cushioning can be helpful. Your shoes mustn’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 your treatment options, 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