What Is a Bone Spur?

Though they don’t always cause problems, bone spurs may lead to joint pain and immobility. If you’ve been told you have a bone spur, you may be wondering what it is and how you got it.

At Orthopedic & Wellness, our experienced physicians — Dr. Ojedapo‌ ‌Ojeyemi ‌and‌ Dr. Matthew Roh — focus on finding and treating the source of your pain so you get long-term relief. Bone spurs often develop in joints damaged by osteoarthritis and may be the underlying cause of your knee pain or back pain.

Here, we explain how bone spurs develop and what you can do when they turn out to be the source of your pain.

What is a bone spur?

A bone spur, medically known as an osteophyte, is a smooth, bony outgrowth that forms along the edge of a bone, usually where two or more bones meet.

A bone spur may grow anywhere. They most often affect your:

Bone spurs grow slowly over time and may go unnoticed for years.

What causes a bone spur?

In most cases, a bone spur grows in an attempt to repair joint damage from osteoarthritis. Also known as the wear-and-tear arthritis, osteoarthritis causes joint pain and damage because of a breakdown of the cartilage that separates the bones that make up the joint. When your body tries to repair the damaged cartilage, it creates the bony growths.

It’s possible to have a bone spur and not know it. However, bone spurs cause problems if they irritate a nerve or rub against bone or soft tissue and cause symptoms such as:

You may notice that your symptoms get worse when you exercise or move the affected joint. 

It’s also possible for a bone spur to break free from the bone and get stuck in your joint. When this happens, you have what’s known as a “loose body,” which may cause the locking of your joint. 

How do you treat a bone spur?

We only treat a bone spur if it causes problems. The type of treatment depends on the location of your bone spur and the severity of your symptoms.

In some cases, we may recommend at-home care, such as over-the-counter pain medication, icing to reduce inflammation, or wearing more supportive footwear for pain relief.

However, if your at-home care fails to alleviate your symptoms, we may refer you for physical therapy and provide pain management treatments such as prescription medication or joint injections to reduce inflammation. 

If your bone spur causes symptoms that affect your quality of life, we may refer you to our orthopedic surgeon to discuss the option of removing your bone spur. We rarely need to perform surgery to treat bone spurs. 

When your bone spur causes joint pain or stiffness, we can help. Call our office — we have three convenient locations: Frederick, Waldorf, and Germantown, Maryland — or use our online booking tool to schedule your appointment today. 

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