What's a Bone Spur?
Osteophytes, also called bone spurs, are smooth, bony projections from bone that form near joints. They often develop over time with the onset of joint damage and arthritis, and result in pain and other symptoms when they impinge on other tissues of the body.
What causes it? And who is at risk?
Arthritis, old age, and a family history of spurs can result in osteophyte formation. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage on the edges of bones breaks down over time, causing bones to rub against each other. In response to this damage, the body may compensate by making bone spurs. Rotator cuff tendonitis is also associated with bone spurs. As the tendons of the rotator cuff rub against the normal subacromial space, bone spurs can form, further pitching the rotator cuff and causing rotator cuff tendonitis.
What does it feel like?
Many people don’t know that they have bone spurs, as they only cause problems when they impinge on other tissues. For example, they can pinch nerves, causing weakness, numbness, and sharp pains. They can also cause tendonitis or tendon tears when they rub on the rotator cuff or biceps tendon. Other common symptoms of bone spurs include pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion.
How is it Diagnosed?
Most bone spurs are found when X-Rays are taken for other reasons. Bone spurs can be diagnosed through physical examination, as well as other imaging techniques such as CT scans and MRIs.
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How is it treated?
Bone spurs can be initially treated with rest, ice, NSAIDS or over the counter pain relievers, and physical therapy. In addition to exercises to strengthen the muscles and improve range of motion, physical therapists can use ultrasound therapy or a deep tissue massage. Lifestyle changes like doing lower impact activities and weight loss can help relieve stress on the joints. Bone spurs can be surgically removed by themselves, or as part of another surgery such as debridement.
How is it prevented?
To prevent bone spurs, eat a well rounded diet and exercise to keep your bones healthy and prevent them from stress. Practice good posture and ergonomics during daily activities, and practice stretching and good technique while exercising.