Bone spurs (known as osteophytes) are hard bumps that can develop along the edges of bones. While they may not always cause symptoms, bone spurs can cause problems when they press on nearby nerves or rub against other bones or tissues.
Osteophytes tend to form as a result of a specific type of arthritis, known as osteoarthritis.
In everyday life, our joints are exposed to low level damage as we use our bodies to move and function. This is completely normal and in a healthy body this low-level damage is easily repaired by the body, so we do not experience any symptoms. In osteoarthritis, the protective barrier (cartilage) on the ends of our bones is broken down, and this causes pain, swelling and inflammation. As the body tries to repair damage to the cartilage, it can lead to the formation of bone spurs.
There is not, unfortunately, one specific risk factor for developing osteoarthritis. As a result, it is not possible to quantify the risk of developing bone spurs. However, there are certain things that are currently believed to increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis (and hence bone spurs), including:
- Increasing age: as we get older, our risk of developing osteoarthritis rises
- Family history of the disease
- Previous history of rheumatoid arthritis
- Being overweight: obesity puts increased strain on your joints, and this increases the risk of developing joint-related problems.
Bone spurs can different symptoms, depending on where in the body they are located. Common areas affected include the:
- Hip: bone spurs can cause a reduction in the range of movement you have
- Knee: bone spurs can cause knee pain, especially when you bend or stretch your leg
- Neck: if a bone spur presses on a nerve in your neck it may cause pain, numbness or weakness in your arm.
- Spine: bone spurs can cause pain and/or stiffness in your back. If they press on your spinal cord, you may experience weakness or numbness in your arms or legs.
- Foot: bone spurs can cause pain and discomfort whilst wearing footwear.
As you may appreciate from the list above, there is a wide range of symptoms associated with bone spurs. As many of them overlap with other conditions and illnesses, it can sometimes be challenging to determine the exact cause, and this is where a consultation with an expert in bone problems can be extremely helpful.
The majority of bone spurs do not cause pain. However, long-term chronic pain may be caused by the associated osteoarthritis.
If you are in pain, common over-the-counter killers may be of help. Ibuprofen, for example, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID), which can help to reduce swelling or inflammation linked to the arthritis.
Sometimes it can be helpful to have physiotherapy, to help improve the range of motion and to strengthen the muscles surrounding the affected area.
While it is not common to remove a bone spur with surgery, a surgical procedure may be advised when a nerve in your spine is being seriously affected or if you range of motion is severely impacted. Surgery can also sometimes help to manage the related arthritis in a joint and this is something you will be able to discuss further when you see one of our highly-experienced orthopaedic consultants.
If you have bone spurs and feel that you need relief from the symptoms you’re experiencing, why not come and talk to one of our consultants? In your private consultation, you will be able to talk with them about your symptoms, explain how it is affecting your life, and ask them for their expert advice and opinion
During your visit, your consultant will also be able to arrange for you to have any tests required, such as X-rays or other diagnostic scans. In the majority of cases, we’ll be able to carry these tests out on the same day. However, in some circumstances, and especially if the test requires specific preparation, we’ll need to arrange the test for another day. (Rest assured, we will always schedule it for the earliest possible date, as we don’t want you to have an unnecessary wait).
If you’re experiencing pain, stiffness or nerve-related problems that are being caused by bone spurs, you don’t want to have to wait weeks or months to receive help and treatment. At Circle we have no waiting lists, meaning you can be seen by one of our specialists promptly and then receive any treatment you need without undue delay.
Contact our friendly team today to book your consultation at a time that is convenient for you, in the Circle hospital nearest to you.