What is a bone spur?

November 12, 2012

What is a bone spur?

A bone spur is the name given to a small abnormal growth of bone on top of a bone. The size and shape tend to vary but are normally smooth and rounded.

Causes of a bone spur

Typically a bone spur will develop because the bone is under some form of stress. This may be inflammation, over use, due to an injury or because two bones are rubbing together. Growing new bone is the bodies naturally reaction and attempt to protect itself from this stress but will only occur if the stress is persistent and long term. Based on this premise then bone spurs can develop anywhere that the bone receives this kind stress. A common cause of a bone spur is as a result of osteoarthritis, where the cartilage is worn and damages causing the bone and joint to come into direct contact when it normally should not. In this case the spur will develop at the site of the bone rubbing against the joint. Another cause is conditions such as tennis elbow where inflammation occurs due to overuse of the joint. There is another condition, which is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the connective tissue that connects the sole of the foot to the heel. This leads to the development of a bone spur on the heel.

Symptoms of a bone spur

It is fairly common for bone spurs not to produce any obvious symptoms. However under certain conditions such as if the bone spur begins to run against another bone that symptoms may start to occur. For example you may experience pain, redness and swelling around the joint as well as limited flexibility or movement of the joint. Furthermore if the spur begins to rub against a ligament or tendon it can cause pain, inflammation and even a tear. One particular location where ligament tears can occur is in the shoulder joint. Bone spurs that develop in the spine can be particularly painful due to pinching of the nerves. Other symptoms of this condition include numbness, tingling, weakness and pins and needles.


It is not unheard of for bone spurs to be found almost by accident when a patient is having an x-ray done due to another condition. This is because of the lack of symptoms. When symptoms such as pain or swelling do occur the doctor will probably recommend that an x-ray is done in order to see whatÂ’s going on with the joint.


If they are not causing any symptoms, even a bone spur that is known about may not require treatment. If symptoms are particularly troublesome surgical removal is an option. Before this though, the doctor will recommend a variety of treatments to try which will be aimed at relieving the symptoms rather than directed at the bone spur itself. Physical therapy may help, as might non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can be purchased over the counter.

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