Bone spurs are an outgrowth of extra bone. They are usually the result of osteoarthritis or injury and can form anywhere in the body. They generally appear where bones connect and are common in joints and the spine.

Bone spurs are often painless and produce no symptoms. However, inflammation of nearby tissue may occur, producing pain. A bone spur can also rub on other bones or tissues or break down tissue over time, causing pain.

Doctors use X-rays to diagnose a bone spur. Some bone spurs do not require treatment, while others may require physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, or surgical removal.

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There are two types of bone spurs: osteophytes and enthesophytes. Both types are projections of bone that grow off an existing bone, which features a cap of fibrocartilage from cells in the periosteum. This is a membrane that encapsulates the bones. Transforming growth factor beta plays a role in the development of bone spurs.

Although osteophytes and enthesophytes are similar, they form in different locations on the bone and tend to have different causes.

Osteophytes can develop on any bone but are common in joints or at the intersections of bones. Osteoarthritis (OA) places friction and stress on the bone and puts people at higher risk for osteophytes.

Enthesophytes are bone spurs that develop where soft tissue, such as muscle, ligaments, and tendons, inserts into bones. Doctors call these insertion sites “entheses.” They may result from tight ligaments or tendons, injury, or inflammatory diseases, such as psoriatic arthritis and spondyloarthritis.

Learn more about OA.

Any bone can develop bone spurs, which typically form in joints or on the spine. They commonly form in the:

  • heels
  • fingers
  • shoulders
  • elbows
  • knees
  • spine
  • hips
  • neck

Bone spurs may also form during healing from an injury. They may also be the result of OA, which causes the breakdown of cartilage. As the body attempts to repair and rebuild the lost cartilage and damaged bone, it may create a bone spur.

Older adults are at higher risk of bone spurs. However, active, young people can get them too. Activities, such as sports and dancing, can stress the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, leading to bone spurs.

According to a 2016 review, bone spurs do not always cause symptoms. However, inflammation can result if the bony growth rubs or presses on another bone or tissue, such as a tendon or muscle. This may produce pain.

Bone spurs may also affect the range of motion in an affected joint. If they occur in the heel, they may result in corns and calluses that cause pain.

Bone spurs are usually the result of OA. During this degenerative process, the cushioning layer of cartilage between two bones breaks down. The bones may rub against each other, causing damage. The body will seek to rebuild the damaged tissue and bone by causing inflammation in the area, which can lead to the development of bony growths.

Bone spurs may develop through a similar healing process following an injury to a bone.

The risk of developing bone spurs increases with age, body mass index, and physical activity.

Bone spurs are visible on X-rays. Doctors may notice them when an individual has an X-ray to diagnose another health issue, such as arthritis.

A doctor may order an X-ray to check for a bone spur if an individual is experiencing pain, stiffness, numbness, or nerve pain.

Learn more about X-rays.

Doctors may recommend various treatments, including surgery, if a bone spur is causing pain or damaging nearby tissue or bone. Doctors may prescribe:

Doctors may also recommend surgery to remove the bone spur if conservative treatment is ineffective. This may be part of a larger operation to surgically fix or replace a joint that OA has damaged.

As bone spurs are usually part of a degenerative arthritis process, maintaining joint health is key to prevention. The following tips may help prevent bone spurs:

  • Wear proper footwear and use appropriate form when exercising to help prevent injury.
  • Schedule proper rest into an exercise routine to allow the body to heal.
  • Keep body weight in a moderate range to take the pressure off the joints and help prevent the development of arthritis.

A person should consult a doctor if they have ongoing pain, particularly if:

  • there is an atypical lump
  • pain accompanies the lump
  • pain or weakness occurs in a joint
  • pain worsens after exercise but not during
  • it is difficult to walk because of the pain

A doctor can order tests to diagnose the cause and suggest therapies to improve a person’s symptoms.

Bone spurs are bony projections that form on the ends of bones. They usually occur due to OA, as the cartilage wears away and bones rub together. The body attempts to repair the damaged area and creates inflammation, producing new bone growth.

Bone spurs do not usually create symptoms until they press or rub on another bone, muscle, or tendon. They may then produce inflammation and irritation. In this case, a person should visit a doctor for treatment.

Doctors may recommend rest, physical therapy, or anti-inflammatory medications. If these cannot relieve pain, surgery is an option.