The medical term for a bone spur is osteophyte, which means bone growth. A bone spur is a smooth lump of bone that usually occurs near the edge of a bone where bones come together. A bone spur takes years to grow and is most common in people over age 60. By age 60, about 40 percent of people will have a bone spur seen on an x-ray. Bone spurs are common on your ankle, heel, or big toe. They can also occur on the joints of your spine, shoulder, hand, hip, or knee.
What Causes Bone Spurs?
The most common cause of bone spurs is the wear and tear of a joint that comes with age. Over time, the protective coating over the end of bones – called cartilage – wears down. In an attempt to replace lost cartilage, bone thickens and may form a smooth, bony lump. Wear and tear of joint cartilage is called osteoarthritis, and bone spurs are most common in people with osteoarthritis. Younger people may also develop a bone spur if a joint is damaged by a joint injury or if they have a disease that causes joint swelling and irritation.
What Are the Symptoms of Bone Spurs?
Unless a bone spur obstructs the movement of a joint, or rubs against other tissues like bone, nerves, or tendons, there may be no symptoms. In fact, most people with bone spurs do not have symptoms. If you do have symptoms they may include:
- Aching pain that gets worse with activity and better with rest
- Tingling or numbness (pins and needles)
- Limited movement or stiffness
How Are Bone Spurs Diagnosed?
Your doctor may suspect a bone spur from your symptoms. Sometimes a bone spur can be felt under the skin. The best way to diagnose a bone spur is with an X-ray. Many people who have a bone spur without symptoms find out about it when they have an x-ray or other imaging study for another reason.
Home Remedies for Bone Spurs
Home remedies include rest, elevation, and icing to bring down swelling. Your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter medication to relieve pain and swelling called a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). A painful bone spur in your foot may respond to wearing a padded insert in your shoe. Sometimes, a doctor will inject a steroid into a joint to reduce pain and swelling. A stiff joint may respond to physical therapy exercises. Losing weight may take some pressure off a bone spur and reduce symptoms.
Can Anything Dissolve Bone Spurs Naturally?
Although there are lots of supplements that claim to dissolve bone spurs, there is nothing that will make a bone spur go away. If you have a bone spur that is causing symptoms and has not responded to home remedies, the only treatment is surgical removal.