Osteophytes, or Bone Spurs, are bony lumps that form on the edges of joints.
They are a common development in the human body, usually caused by the wear and tear of the bones with age, and joint damage associated with osteoarthritis.
As the joints become increasingly damaged and cartilage is worn away, the body attempts protect itself by creating new bone on the surfaces of the joint.
Osteophytes are most commonly found in the spine, shoulders, hands, hips, knees and feet. They are generally asymptomatic and may go undetected for years without requiring any treatment. But they can cause problems if they come into contact with a nerve, soft tissue or other bone.
Different types of joints are affected in different ways.
For example, if they occur in the shoulders, they can cause tendonitis or rotator cuff tears.
In the neck they can pinch a nerve and cause pain, pins and needles, or numbness in the arms.
In the hips and knees, movement can become painful and the range of movement reduced.
An osteophyte on the vertebra can cause spinal canal narrowing – spinal nerves can be affected, causing to pain and numbness in various parts of the body.
Diagnosis of an osteophyte begins with a physical examination to pinpoint the source of the pain. An x-ray or MRI scan is needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for Osteophytes
Generally no treatment is required but is dependent on the affect the Osteophyte has on the individual.
Treatment may include:
• Muscle relaxants, pain medication or anti-inflammatory medication
• Low-impact aerobic exercises such as walking
• Hot/cold therapy
• Nutritional/diet recommendations. Losing weight can help to relieve stress on joints.
• Corticosteroid injections
Surgical treatment is not usually required, unless the osteophyte is irritating a nerve in the spine or restricting a joint’s range of movement.