Bone Spurs Are a Thorny Problem

In actuality, a bone spur is less like a thorn and more of a smooth extension of the original bone – an outgrowth that has developed gradually. Bone spurs themselves are painless, but their intrusion into surrounding soft tissues can cause lasting damage that includes chronic pain and inflammation.

What Is a Bone Spur, Exactly?

A bone spur, also known as an osteophyte, is a growth on the edge of a bone. Bone spurs tend to develop next to joints and as a byproduct of our body’s natural defense mechanism to cartilage breakdown. With cartilage loss, we also lose the cushioning between our bones and joints. As a result, moving our joints can become painful and difficult—and our bones can also begin to break down. As this happens, our bones develop bone spurs as a shield from nearby damage. While bone spurs don’t hurt, their presence can add to discomfort and worsen range of motion.

Numerous factors contribute to the development of bone spurs, including:

  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Injuries
  • Nutrition
  • Congenital structural abnormalities
  • Underlying conditions like arthritis and spinal stenosis

Symptoms of Bone Spurs

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Loss of motion in joints
  • Tendon tears
  • Numbness
  • Weakness and numbness

Diagnosing Bone Spurs

A bone spur diagnosis is commonly made alongside a diagnosis of arthritis, since they often go hand-in-hand. They also may accompany soft-tissue degeneration or injury. If you are experiencing joint pain or a loss of range of motion, the following assessments are likely to be a part of your diagnostic process:

  • Medical history evaluation
  • Physical examination including manual joint assessments for pain and swelling
  • X-rays to check for bone spurs
  • MRI or CT scan if X-ray does not provide enough specificity

Treating Bone Spurs

Bone spur treatments will usually begin with conservative treatments, including:

  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to alleviate pain and inflammation
  • Physical therapy to strengthen muscles and increase flexibility
  • Rest
  • Corticosteroid injections to help reduce pain and inflammation
  • Hyaluronic acid injections to lubricate the joint and relieve friction and pain


If your bone spurs are causing you severe chronic pain or discomfort, bone spur surgery may be an option. In many cases, this surgery successfully reduces pain. Unfortunately, bone spurs can and do grow back so the relief may be temporary.

Common Sites for Bone Spurs

  • Foot and ankle
  • Hands
  • Hip
  • Knees
  • Shoulder
  • Spine

A Breakthrough Surgery for Bone Spurs of the Feet

A heel spur, also called plantar fasciitis, is a bone spur that grows on the underside of the heel bone and often leads to considerable pain. For some, any foot movement—including walking—becomes excruciating. If conservative treatment methods fail to relieve the pain, endoscopic plantar fasciotomy may provide longstanding relief. The surgery opens up space in the heel to enable fascia growth in the space created by the removal of the heel spur.

Can Bone Spurs Be Prevented?

Unfortunately, you can’t completely control the development of bone spurs but you can control some of their factors. The following measures may help reduce your risk of developing bone spurs:

  • Staying in good physical condition to keep muscles strong enough to stabilize joints in the presence of cartilage degeneration
  • Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce stress on joints
  • Practicing good posture
  • Eating healthily to nourish the body and maintain its strength