A bone spur, also known as a osteophyte, is a bony growth projecting from a bone. The growths can be minimal or extend into surrounding tissues. Generally, a spur may occur as the body attempts to restore damaged bones by creating extra bone fragments on existing bones. Most of these growths form in joints, but they can appear at any bone location. There are many possible ways to treat a bone spur.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition of the joints and is one of the most common causes of bone spurs. It is a type of arthritis which occurs when cartilage in the joints begin to break down. The condition will generally worsen over time. As the cartilage continues to diminish, the bones will eventually begin to rub against each other. Extra tiny pieces of bones, or spurs, may form to compensate for the damaged ones due to this condition.
The treatment for a bone spur will commonly depend on its cause. If osteoarthritis is the reason for the spur, treatment will generally be aimed toward the condition causing it. Anti-inflammatory medications and cortisone injections may be given to alleviate symptoms such as pain and swelling. Individuals treating bone spurs with medication will generally do so under the supervision of a doctor. The doctor may have the patient come back periodically to check the effectiveness of the medicine.
Excessive pressure on the bones can also lead to bone spurs. For instance, many people develop a bone spur on the heel. When found in this location, the bony growth is known as a heel spur. This type of spur may form from the pressure of wearing extremely tight shoes. Bone spurs in this location may be treated by wearing better fitting foot wear and using an orthotic or shoe inserts to support the heel.
Sometimes, spurs form in response to continual stress on the bones. This may happen due to general wear and tear, from being overweight or due to strenuous physical activity. Under these common circumstances, a bone spur may be treated by exercising. This may be done prior to activity or as part of a daily regime. Frequent exercising can more evenly distribute weight in the body, which can lessen overall stress on the bones.
In some cases, bone spur surgery may be necessary for treatment. This will generally mean making an incision to remove the extra growths. Usually, surgery may be necessary if the individual has particularly large bone spurs protruding into surrounding areas. It may also be done in an individual with smaller spurs if he or she is symptomatic to the point that the daily quality of life is affected. Typically, physical therapy may be prescribed as a follow up to surgery to rebuild strength in the affected joints.