Bone spurs are bony projections that develop along bone edges. Bone spurs (osteophytes) often form where bones meet each other — in your joints. They can also form on the bones of your spine.
The main cause of bone spurs is the joint damage associated with osteoarthritis. Most bone spurs cause no symptoms and can go undetected for years. They might not require treatment. If treatment is needed, it depends on where spurs are located and how they affect your health.
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Osteoarthritis of the hip
The hip joint shown on the left side of the image is normal, but the hip joint shown on the right side of the image shows deterioration of cartilage and the formation of bone spurs due to osteoarthritis.
Bone spurs on spine
As your spine ages, it's more likely to experience bone spurs or herniated disks. These problems can reduce the amount of space available for your spinal cord and the nerves that branch off it.
Most bone spurs cause no signs or symptoms. You might not realize you have bone spurs until an X-ray for another condition reveals the growths. In some cases, though, bone spurs can cause pain and loss of motion in your joints.
Specific symptoms depend on where the bone spurs are. Examples include:
- Knee. Bone spurs in your knee can make it painful to extend and bend your leg.
- Spine. On your vertebrae, bone spurs can narrow the space that contains your spinal cord. These bone spurs can pinch the spinal cord or its nerve roots and can cause weakness or numbness in your arms or legs.
- Hip. Bone spurs can make it painful to move your hip, although you might feel the pain in your knee. Depending on their placement, bone spurs can reduce the range of motion in your hip joint.
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have pain or swelling in one or more joints or if you have difficulty moving a joint.
Joint damage from osteoarthritis is the most common cause of bone spurs. As osteoarthritis breaks down the cartilage cushioning the ends of your bones, your body attempts to repair the loss by creating bone spurs near the damaged area.
The risk of bone spurs is higher in people who have arthritis.
Feb. 22, 2022
- Doherty M, et al. Clinical manifestations of osteoarthritis. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Jan. 15, 2018.
- Firestein GS, et al., eds. Pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. In: Kelley and Firestein's Textbook of Rheumatology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 15, 2018.
- What is spinal stenosis? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.catalog.niams.nih.gov/detail.cfm?pubid=1851. Accessed Jan. 16, 2018.
- Is your back pain caused by OA? Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/back-pain/articles/oa-and-back-pain.php. Accessed Jan. 15, 2018.
- Imboden JB, et al. Osteoarthritis. In: Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Rheumatology. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Jan. 16, 2018.
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