Bone Spurs

bone spur
A bone spur often occurs when arthritis forms in a joint. MedicalArtInc / Getty Images

Bone spurs, or osteophytes, are bony projections that form along joints, and are often seen in conditions such as arthritis. Bone spurs are largely responsible for limitations in joint motion and can cause pain.

Why Bone Spurs Form

Bone spurs form as the body responds to an abnormality around a joint.  The most common cause of a bone spur is osteoarthritis.  In osteoarthritis, often called wear-and-tear arthritis, the normal cartilage of  a joint is worn away.

  As the protective cartilage is worn away, bone can become exposed on the joint surface and inflammation can occur.  When inflammation occurs, the bone responds a number of different ways, often by making bone spurs around the edges of the joint. 

The bone spur can be thought of as the body's effort to increase the surface area of the joint, to better spread out (distribute) the forces acting on the joint.  Unfortunately, bone spurs don't tend to help to much, and can often cause problems.  Bone spurs can restrict joint mobility and press of nerves and other structures that surround the joint.

What To Do

Bone spurs themselves are not problematic, but they are a signal of an underlying problem that often needs to be addressed. Bone spurs are often documented to help assess the severity of a condition such as arthritis.

There are unusual situations where a bone spur can simply be removed.  The majority will return at some point unless the underlying joint problem is also addressed.

  However, there are certain conditions where the bone spur can be managed by simple removal.  Sometimes bone spurs around the fingers or toes (such as is the case with hallux rigidus of the great toe) can be removed to improve motion and reduce pain.

Also Known As: osteophyte

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