When you hear the word “spur” – what comes to mind? Perhaps you picture an old Western movie, with cowboys and horses and elaborate scenes of “shoot ‘em up.” Well, at least that’s what I conjure up, only the few “Westerns” I’m really familiar with include Mel Brooks’ classic “Blazing Saddles” and the comedy “Three Amigos” – both which are not really Westerns at all!
Regardless, you probably think of a “spur” as a shiny, silvery, extremely sharp metal contraption – one that looks like it could cause a lot of pain. Ouch!
Given that, wouldn’t you imagine a bone spur to be painful as well?
Well, you’d be right! If you don’t suffer from bone spurs, consider yourself lucky. And if you do, you certainly know the pain and discomfort they can cause. But don’t give up hope on a pain-free life! Keep reading for more information on bone spurs, including symptoms, causes and treatment options.
Bone Spur Basics
Bone spurs are growths of bone that build up along the edge of the bone and push outward. They can happen on any bone in the body, including the spine and feet, but are more common at the joints.
You could have a bone spur for years and not even realize it, but symptoms generally include pain and a decrease in your range of motion. If you have a bone spur on your knee, for example, you may find it difficult to bend and straighten your leg. A spur on the spine can press into nerves and the spinal cord, leading to pain and numb sensations in other areas of the body. If a spur develops in the neck, painful swallowing and breathing can occur. Bone spurs in the fingers can be unsightly and make it difficult to pick up objects, write and type. In the shoulders, a spur can lead to tendonitis, a swelling in the rotator cuff.
What causes bone spurs?
They are often the result of preexisting conditions, such as osteoarthritis, plantar fasciitis, and diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH). But they could also be a normal part of aging, as they are common in older adults who don’t have any known related health problems. In those cases, the spurs may be the body’s way of producing more bone to support joints worn out by years of wear and tear.
Many people who have bone spurs don’t feel any pain at all. If that’s the case, you don’t need to do anything. But if a bone spur is causing you discomfort, you may want to consider taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, to alleviate your symptoms. Exercise and physical therapy can also help. Natural supplements, including capsaicin, evening primrose oil and omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce associated aches and pains.
If the spur is limiting your range of motion and making it difficult to walk, you may need to have surgery.
So now you know!
Bone spurs certainly aren’t fun to deal with, but with the proper treatment you can ease the pain and discomfort they cause and get on with living your life!