The term “spur” can be misleading because many people associate that word with something sharp or spiny – in fact, most bone spurs are relatively smooth. This doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t often cause pain when they agitate surrounding bones or put pressure on soft tissue, such as ligaments, tendons or nerves. The spine is among the most common body parts to develop bones spurs (also known as osteophytes). The shoulders, hands and feet, as well as hips are other common locations where bone spur growth is seen.
Bone spurs are created as a response to our body’s natural healing process. Most grow as we try to repair some sort of injury, typically caused by excessive rubbing, pressure or bone damage from an accident. In the spine however, we also see osteophytes emerge as a part of the aging process.
Over the years, our cartilage weakens and deteriorates, and this can often lead to bones rubbing together. As the cushions that separate one vertebra from another become less supportive, swelling and friction can occur. Bone spurs sometimes develop as a response, typically around the joint’s edges.
For most people, bone spurs exist undetected and never cause any problems. However, if they push into soft tissue, causing swelling, pain and tearing, there are several treatment options available to you.
Once detected by x-ray and identified as the source of your discomfort, bone spurs can be addressed with a number of approaches. If you’re overweight and extra pressure is worsening your spur associated symptoms, a diet may be recommended; a combination of deep tissue massage, rest and ice can often alleviate the discomfort; anti-inflammatory medicine is successful; and as a last resort, surgery can remove the bone spur if the pain is severe and persistent, of if they are causing other medical conditions.