Bone Spur

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Overview

A bone spur (osteophyte) is a bony growth formed on normal bone. Most people think of something sharp when they think of a bone spur, but the bone spur is just an extra bone. It usually has a smooth surface, but this can wear out and cause pain when it is pressed or rubbed against other bones or soft tissues such as ligaments and tendons from different parts of the body. The most comon locations of bone spurs are in the spine, shoulders, hands, hips, knees and feet.

Article Contents:
Overview
Causes
Symptoms
Diagnosis
Treatment

Causes

A bone spur is formed due to the additional production of bone while the organism is trying to regenerate in response to some aggression. A bone spur is generally formed as a response to pressure, friction or stress that continue for a long time.
Some bone spurs form because of the process of aging. As we age, the link tissue called cartilage that covers the bones within joints, becomes worse and eventually thins till its disappearance (osteoarthritis). Also, the intervertebral discs that provide congruence of vertebrae (the perfect overlap of the articular surfaces of vertebrae) may deteriorate along with age. In time, this process leads to pain and swelling and, in some cases, to the formation of bone spurs along the edges of the joint. Bone spurs due to aging are common especially in the joints of the spine and legs.
Bone spurs also form in the legs as a response to tight ligaments, to activities such as dancing and running that put stress on the foot and at the same time pressure on the foot of people who are overweight or wear improper shoes. For example, the long ligament of the foot (plantar fascia) can become stressed or tight and pull on the heel, becoming inflamed (plantar fasciitis). As the bones repair themselves, a bone spur can form on the front plantar heel (called a heel spur). The pressure at the back heel because of the frequent wear of shoes that are too tight, can cause a bone spur behind the heel. This occurs frequently in women who wear high heels. Another common location for bone spurs is the shoulder. Shoulder joint can move in many directions due to its complex structure. Over time, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments that make up your shoulder can rub one against the other. The muscles that lift and rotate your arm through contraction (called the rotator cuff) originate from the scapula (shoulder blade) and are inserted by tendons to the upper arm. As these tendons move through the narrow space between the top shoulder and the upper arm, they can rub against the bones. In this narrow area bone spurs that compress the rotator cuff tendons can form, resulting in irritation, inflammation, stiffness, weakness, pain and sometimes even in the tearing of the tendon. This condition,called rotator cuff tendinitis, commonly occurs with age and / or the repetitive use of the shoulder. It is also frequently met in athletes, especially in baseball players, and people with certain professions such as painters who frequently work with their arms overhead.

Symptoms

Many people have bone spurs without ever knowing it, because most bone spurs cause no symptoms. However, if bone spurs press on other bones or tissues or produce the friction of muscles or tendons, they can damage the tissues over time, causing their swelling, pain and tearing. Bone spurs in the foot can also cause corns and calluses during the production process of tissue covering the bone spur.

Diagnosis

Bone spur is usually visible on the radiography. However, because most bone spurs are asymptomatic, making an X-ray just to see if there are bone spurs, is unusual. If the patient has made an X-ray in order to evaluate one of the problems associated with bone spurs, such as arthritis, they will be visible on that radiography. A medical doctor or someone who has completed a master in nursing program can examine the X-rays for bone spurs.

Treatment

Bone spurs do not require treatment, unless they are causing pain or damaging other tissues. When necessary, treatment may be targeted to remove the causes, symptoms, or even the bone spurs. The treatment targeted at the removal of the cause of the appearance of bone spurs, may include weight loss in order to take some pressure off the joints (especially when the cause is osteoarthritis or plantar fasciitis) and to stretch the affected area, such as Achilles tendon and the plantar side of the foot.
The examination conducted by a physiotherapeut in order to establish an ultrasound treatment can be helpful in the case of plantar fascia or pain in the shoulder.
The treatment targeted at the amelioration of symptoms includes rest, applying ice, performing stretching exercises (stretching) and the administration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. The education of patients about the way in which they should protect their joints is helpful if they have osteoarthritis.
In the case of bone spurs in the foot, changing footwear or adding padding in the shoe or inserting some protective devices can be helpful. If the bone spur is causing corns or calluses, covering that area or wearing different shoes can be an effective remedy. The patient can consult a podiatrist when corns and calluses become a major problem. If the bone spur continues to cause symptoms, your doctor may suggest a corticosteroid injection in the painful area in order to relieve pain and decrease the inflammation of the soft tissue near the bone spur.
Sometimes even the surgical treatment of bone spurs is performed. Bone spurs can be surgically removed, sometimes even during a surgery meant to repair or replace a joint to which osteoarthritis caused severe damage and deformation. The examples include surgical repair of a corn or a bone spur in the foot or the removal of the small bone spurs in the shoulder.

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