Bone spurs, or osteophytes, form in your joints and on your spinal bones (vertebrae). They most often result from damage caused by osteoarthritis.
Bone spurs are usually smooth. Over time, they can rub against bones, muscles, or tendons and cause damage.
They may cause no symptoms at first, or even many years. People often learn they have a bone spur after having an x-ray for some other health matter.
Treatment for bone spurs depends on where they are located and what symptoms they cause.
Bone spurs can affect your:
Degenerative conditions — such as osteoarthritis or tendonitis — can cause bone spurs.
Damage to a joint from osteoarthritis is the most common cause.
Osteoarthritis breaks down the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones.
In response, your body attempts to repair the damage by creating a new bone in the damaged area. The swelling stimulates cells that form bone, which eventually grows into a bone spur.
For example, when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed, a bone spur can form on the back of the heel (calcaneus bone).
Activities, such as running or dancing, can also lead to the growth of bone spurs.
Bone spurs are more likely to form with age. Rarely, a health problem present at birth — called a congenital condition — will cause bone spurs.
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Bone spurs may not cause any symptoms. If they do, it depends on where they occur in your body.
Bone spurs can break down the other bones and tissues they may be rubbing against, causing symptoms like:
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and perform an exam.
He or she may be able to feel the bone spur during the exam. Even so, your doctor will often order imaging tests — such as x-rays — to confirm a bone spur diagnosis.
Bone spurs that do not cause symptoms may not need treatment.
When bone spurs cause pain or damage other tissues, your doctor at UPMC Orthopaedic Care might use nonsurgical or surgical treatments.
Your doctor may suggest one or more of the following:
If your bone spur limits your range of motion or presses on nerves, surgery to remove it might be your best treatment option.
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