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Developing Bone Spurs — What Are the Risk Factors?

Bone Spurs

Bones spurs, also known as osteophytes, are naturally occurring bony growths that occur as a result of bone on bone friction. Commonly associated with arthritis, bone spurs are the body’s attempt to stabilize joints that have lost the cushion of cartilage and joint fluid. However, they can also cause problems of their own, including joint stiffness, aches and grinding and popping sensations.

Additionally, bone spurs can also result in painful nerve compression that leads to neuropathic symptoms such as shooting pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness. This is especially common for bone spurs that develop in the spinal column, although this can occur in any location where bone spurs can potentially constrict a nerve pathway. If you have been diagnosed with a bone spur as the source of your chronic pain, it is important to follow medical advice and be proactive about your treatment.

Educating yourself as a patient, including the causes and risk factors of bone spur development, is an important step. This knowledge can help with treatment and with prevention of the condition either worsening or new bone spurs developing. As you read this informative guide, we ask you to reach out to our caring team if you have any questions or if you’d like to learn more about your treatment options for bone spurs.

Natural wear and tear is one of the major risk factors for bone spur development

As mentioned above, bone spurs are very often a side effect of arthritis, especially the form known as osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis or “wear and tear” arthritis, occurs primarily because of natural changes to the body combined with the cumulative stress of years of activity.

Our joints enable all regular movement, but this requires the ends of bones to run against each other over and over again. To reduce friction and allow for smooth motion, joints throughout the body are protected by a layer of cartilage and lubricated by fluid. As we get older, our bodies basically dry out, causing the cartilage to become brittle and the joint fluid to dry up.

Osteoarthritis develops when cartilage wears out and increased bone on bone friction causes joint inflammation and instability. Bone spurs are the skeleton’s natural response to this. The friction triggers increased growth in an attempt to stabilize the joint and reduce friction.

Other risk factors for bone spurs include injury, obesity, posture, diet and exercise

While no one can prevent the natural aging process or stop natural wear and tear on the joints, there are other risk factors that contribute to bone spurs. Many of these are ones that can be controlled by patients. These can include:

  • Injury — Frequent or serious injuries can increase stress on the joints, speeding up the degenerative process and raising the risk of arthritis and bone spurs.
  • Obesity — Carrying extra body weight puts more load on the joints with every step. Maintaining a healthy body weight can potentially slow down wear and tear on cartilage over time.
  • Posture — Poor posture and body mechanics can lead to uneven weight distribution which puts stress on the joints, creating an environment where bone spurs are more likely to grow.
  • Lifestyle — While marginal, a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition are associated with an increased risk of joint degeneration and bone spur growth.

It may not be possible to completely avoid and prevent bone spur growth, but following expert medical advice by practicing a healthy lifestyle that includes proper posture and avoiding injury can lower the chances of bone spurs. It can also help lessen their severity if bone spurs do occur.

Seek the medical advice that can help you achieve lasting relief

Bone spurs do not necessarily cause painful symptoms, in which case doctors may not recommend treatment. For many, bone spur symptoms are similar to and experienced along with arthritis symptoms of pain, aches, joint stiffness and grinding.

Conservative treatments such as rest, ice, heating pads, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and gentle stretching are the standard medical advice for many.

Physical therapy and anti-inflammatory steroid injections may also be recommended by doctors, particularly in more severe cases that involve nercompression and neuropathic symptoms.

Surgery will typically be recommended only in cases where a bone spur is causing nerve compression and symptoms have not responded to conservative treatment options. Procedures typically involve accessing the joint where the bone spur has grown, such as one of the facet joints in the spine, and removing enough bone spur material to relieve pressure on the nerve.

Thanks to the continual development of surgical technique and micro technology, surgeons are able to perform this procedure on an outpatient basis. This can help contribute to a quicker recovery and less risk of certain complications compared to hospital-based inpatient procedures.

To learn more about the full range of treatment options for bone spur symptom relief, contact USA Spine Care today. Our multidisciplinary team can help you create a full personalized treatment plan that is right for your needs and lifestyle.

Bone Spur Quick Answers:

Can bone spurs go away on their own?

As natural growths, bone spurs do not go away on their own. Symptoms can be relieved with conservative treatment options. In some cases, doctors may recommend surgery to remove the bony growth.

What does a bone spur feel like?

A bone spur is an outgrowth of bone that is not painful by itself. Bone spurs can cause joint stiffness and a grinding sensation. Pain and other symptoms can also develop if the bone spur pinches a nerve.

What are the treatment options for bone spurs?

If a bone spur is causing pain, standard medical advice is for patients to pursue conservative treatments such as rest, over-the-counter medication and physical therapy. Surgery may be recommended to relieve nerve compression.

How do surgeons remove bone spurs?

After locating the bone spur, surgeons use microsurgical equipment to grind down the bone growth and open up the nerve space. This can be accomplished with direct visualization technology on a minimally invasive outpatient basis.


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