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).
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.
Although they can grow from any bone, osteophytes are particularly common in the:
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.
Some people have bone spurs and don’t even know it. Spurs start to create symptoms when they:
When that happens, you may feel some:
Without symptoms, you may accidentally discover a bone spur during an X-ray or other test for a different condition.
If you report pain, stiffness and loss of motion to your healthcare provider, he or she will:
If you have bone spurs without symptoms, you don’t need treatment. Tell your healthcare provider if you develop joint pain, stiffness, limited motion or numbness.
Some home remedies and lifestyle changes help ease osteophyte symptoms:
If those methods aren’t enough, your healthcare provider can prescribe:
There is no certain way to prevent bone spurs. But you can reduce your chance of developing them by following a healthy lifestyle:
Bone spurs don’t go away unless you have surgery to remove them.
Although bone spurs don’t usually grow back after surgery, more may develop elsewhere in your body.
You can relieve pain and stiffness from bone spurs with rest, ice and over-the counter-medications. Properly fitting shoes and weight loss also reduce joint stress. If symptoms become severe or unmanageable, call your healthcare provider.
Even with bone spurs, try to stay active and healthy. Avoid activities and movements that hurt. Choose low-impact activities, like walking instead of running.
When you exercise, take steps to minimize joint damage: Make sure you have good footwear, concentrate on proper techniques, and always warm up and stretch.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Bone spurs may cause no symptoms at all or may drastically affect your day-to-day life. Home remedies and lifestyle choices can help you delay or ease symptoms. If you can’t control your pain or other symptoms on your own, ask your healthcare provider about additional strategies.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/16/2020.