A bone spur is a bony projection that develops on the edge of a bone. The medical term for a bone spur is called an osteophyte. Bone spurs or osteophytes typically form in weight-bearing joints. Most bone spurs do not cause any pain or symptoms, but some do. Very frequently patients are told about a bone spur or osteophyte when they have had an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan. Many times, the patients are surprised as they have no pain and the test was taken for some other reason. If the patients have been diagnosed with arthritis, then there is an increased likelihood that they may develop bone spurs.
Bone spurs are the result of osteoarthritis, the most common form of joint disease. Bone spurs may also be seen in other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or gout. Other causes of bone spurs and osteophytes include age, diet, overuse, obesity, and genetic factors. When a bone spur develops after an injury, it can be referred to as secondary degenerative joint disease. Some of the most common weight-bearing joints that form bone spurs include the spine, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet but they may develop in any joint.
As damage accumulates within joints, the body responds by attempting to repair damage to the cartilage. Cartilage is a thick, strong, flexible connective tissue that protects joints and bones. It also acts as a shock absorber. Over time the cartilage can break down which decreases the space within the joint and leads to pain or stiffness. The body will then deposit additional bony tissue to replace the loss of cartilage to increase joint stability. This process can eventually lead to the formation of a bone spur. Sometimes a portion or entire bone spur can chip and break off. This is referred to as a loose body and can cause a joint to become immobile or lock.
Treatment of a bone spur or osteophyte depends on its location, severity and symptoms produced. Many times, patients will visit their doctor for a physical examination and diagnostic imaging like an x-ray. Depending on the findings, the doctor may refer them to a rheumatologist or orthopedic doctor for further treatment such as physical therapy, steroid injections, or surgery. Typical treatment goals include decreasing pain, preventing progressive joint damage, maintaining function and activities of daily living as well as nutritional support of the remaining cartilage.
If you have been diagnosed with bone spurs and are suffering from associated pain or symptoms, it is important to be evaluated by your doctor before following any of these common treatment methods.
Dr. Deryk Harting
Florida Licensed Chiropractic Physician
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