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Bone Spurs Overview

Bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, represent abnormal growths that form on the bones. Typically, bone spurs are round and smooth. They usually form in joints or where ligaments and tendons connect with the bone. Bone spurs most commonly grow in the shoulders, neck, spine, hips, knees, hands and feet. Often, bone spurs do not cause any symptoms. Because of that, they frequently go unidentified for years. On the other hand, if bone spurs form in areas where they rub against other bone or push against a ligament, tendon or nerve, the pain and several other symptoms will be present.

Causes of Bone Spurs

Bone spurs are usually caused by a disease. In most cases, it is due to osteoarthritis when the body tries to repair the joints that are broken down by building new areas of bone. Local inflammation due to degenerative arthritis or tendinits can too cause formation of bone spurs. Bone spurs can also result from diseases such as plantar fascitis, spondylosis, spinal stenosis and diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis. Bone spurs can also be part of aging when they form on their own and not due to a disease. In elderly people, bone spurs are usually found in the spine and feet. Sometimes, bone spurs can actually provide stability to joints and help to redistribute weight thus preventing cartilage to break down.

Symptoms of Bone Spurs

As has been mentioned earlier, bone spurs usually do not cause symptoms. However, if symptoms of bone spurs are present, they depend on their location. Generally, pain can be experienced if the bone spur rubs against nearby bone. This can even lead to swelling and inflammation. When the bone spurs presses on nerves, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness can occur. Bone spurs that form in the knee can rub against tendons and bones and can prevent normal movement of the knee. This can result in pain and difficulty in bending and extending the leg. Bone spurs in the spine can press on nerves and the spinal cord. Depending on the nerve affected, this can cause numbness, pain and loss of motion in the area of the body supplied by that nerve. Bone spurs in the neck can cause headaches and pain in the shoulders. Difficulty in swallowing and painful breathing can result from a cervical bone spur that protrudes inward. Bone spurs can also affect the fingers. This causes fingers to appear disfigured and pain can be present too. Bone spurs in the heel can cause foot pain and difficulty walking. In the shoulders, bone spurs can limit range of shoulder movements.

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