Bone spurs are bony growths that form along bone edges. They're also called osteophytes. Bone spurs often form where bones meet each other — in the joints. They also can form on the bones of the spine.
The main cause of bone spurs is the joint damage linked with the most common type of arthritis. This is called osteoarthritis. Bone spurs often cause no symptoms. You might not notice them, and your healthcare team might not happen to find them for years. Bone spurs might not need treatment. If treatment is needed, it depends on where spurs are located and how they affect your health.
Often, bone spurs don't cause symptoms. You might not know you have bone spurs until an X-ray for another condition reveals the growths. But sometimes, bone spurs can cause pain and loss of motion in your joints.
The symptoms depend on where the bone spurs are. Examples include:
- Knee. Bone spurs in the knee can make it painful to extend and bend the leg.
- Spine. On the small bones that form the spine, bone spurs can narrow the space that contains the spinal cord. These bone spurs can pinch the spinal cord or its nerve roots. That can cause weakness or numbness in the arms or legs.
- Hip. Bone spurs can make it painful to move the hip. Sometimes, it might feel like the pain is in the knee or the thigh. Depending on their placement, bone spurs can reduce the range of motion in the hip joint.
When to see a doctor
Get a healthcare checkup if you have:
- Pain or swelling in one or more joints.
- Trouble moving a joint.
- Weakness or loss of feeling in the arms or legs.
Joint damage from osteoarthritis is the most common cause of bone spurs. Osteoarthritis breaks down connective tissue called cartilage that cushions the ends of bones. While this happens, the body tries to repair the loss by creating bone spurs near the damaged area.
The risk of bone spurs is higher in people who have arthritis.