What is a bone spur?

A bone spur, also called an osteophyte, is a smooth, bony lump that grows off a bone. Bone spurs develop over long periods of time, usually near joints (where two or more bones meet).

Who gets bone spurs?

Bone spurs are most common in people 60 years or older, but younger people can get them, too. People with osteoarthritis (OA) are much more likely to get bone spurs. OA is a common form of “wear and tear” arthritis that happens when cartilage, which cushions your bones, wears down.

Where can bone spurs grow?

Although they can grow from any bone, osteophytes are particularly common in the:

  • Foot, especially the heel (heel spurs or calcaneal spurs), big toe and ankle.
  • Hand or finger.
  • Hip.
  • Knee.
  • Neck.
  • Shoulder.
  • Spine.

What causes bone spurs?

Joint damage from OA is the biggest cause of bone spurs. OA is a breakdown of cartilage — the firm, flexible tissue that cushions bones and allows joints to move more easily. OA develops as we age or after damage (like a sports injury).

As the body tries to repair cartilage, it creates new bone material. These new bony growths are osteophytes.

Ankylosing spondylitis also may cause bone spurs. This rare arthritis causes spinal inflammation. Over time, ankylosing spondylitis fuses, or connects, the small bones in the spine (vertebrae). The body responds by forming spinal osteophytes.

What are symptoms of bone spurs?

Some people have bone spurs and don’t even know it. Spurs start to create symptoms when they:

  • Put pressure on nearby nerves.
  • Restrict movement.
  • Rub against other bones or tissues.

When that happens, you may feel some:

  • Knobby or bumpy areas, especially in the fingers or toes.
  • Numbness and weakness, especially in the legs if the spine has spurs.
  • Pain near the affected joint, like heel pain.
  • Reduced range of motion (how far the joint moves).
  • Stiffness.
  • Tendinitis (swelling of a nearby tendon).
  • Tendon tears (like a rotator cuff tear in the shoulder).

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