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Bone Spurs: More than a Spur of the Moment Condition

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When you hear the term bone spur, you might envision something sharp and prickly, but in all actuality, a bone spur is nothing more than just extra bone, a bony growth formed on normal bone. Bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, can cause pain if they rub on other bones or surrounding soft tissues. They are typically found in the spine, the shoulder, the hands, hips, knees and feet.

These bone spurs develop as the body repairs itself by building extra bone. Bone spurs usually form due to pressure, rubbing, or stress that goes on for a significant period of time. Some bone spurs form as part of the aging process. As we get older, the cartilage covering the ends of the bones within our joints begins to wear and break down, contributing to a condition known as osteoarthritis. The discs that cushion the bones of the spine may also break down with age. Over a period of time, this can produce pain and swelling, as well as bone spurs that form along the edges of the joints. When related to the aging process, bone spurs are most common in the joints of the spine and of the feet.

When bone spurs form in the feet, this can be in response to many factors. Activities such as dancing and running that put extra stress on the feet, being overweight, or wearing poorly fitting shoes can contribute to the formation of bone spurs. The long ligament that is on the bottom of the foot can become tight and begin to pull on the heel, creating inflammation of that ligament. As the bone begins to heal itself, the spur can form on the bottom of the heel. This is known as a heel spur. Shoes that are too tight, such as high heels, can contribute to bone spurs in the heel.

Bone spurs are frequently seen in the shoulder, too. Since your shoulder is complex and can move in many directions, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in that area can wear against each other. Bone spurs can form as tendons rub on the bones. As a result, this area can become stiff, swollen, inflamed, weak, or painful.
Sometimes, there can be a tear in the tendon. This is usually seen in athletes, such as baseball players, or even painters, as both types of people frequently work with their arms above their heads.

Bone spurs do not always reveal themselves through problematic symptoms. It is when they begin to press on other bones or tissues that they can cause a muscle or tendon to rub, breaking down the tissue over time. The result is swelling, pain, and tearing. When located in the feet, bone spurs can contribute to corns and calluses when the tissue builds up in an effort to provided added protection and padding against the spur.

Bone spurs can usually be seen on an X-ray. However, as bone spurs do not generally cause problems, having an X-ray taken just for this purpose would be unusual. X-rays performed for other reasons, such as arthritis, could reveal their location in the body.

Unless they are causing pain or damaging the tissues, no treatment is needed for bone spurs. Treatment aimed at the cause of bone spurs could include a recommendation of weight loss to alleviate the pressure and extra stress on the joints. Stretching or massage therapy modalities may be recommended. In an effort to treat the symptoms of bone spurs, you might want to rest the affected joint, alleviate the swelling with ice, engage in some stretching exercises, or take an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen.

If you have a bone spur in your foot, this may be a good time to change your usual footwear or add a shoe insert like a heel cup or orthotic. You may want to consult a podiatrist if the corns and calluses that develop get worse. Sometimes a corticosteroid injection in the affected area can reduce the associated pain and swelling. Bone spurs can be surgically removed as a part of surgery that is performed to repair or replace a damaged joint due to osteoarthritis.

(Information for this article was found at http://www.webmd.com.)

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.