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What is a Bone Spur

Bone spurs are known to develop in various parts of our body, right from your foot to the shoulder. In the following write-up we will discuss how this bony growth is caused and how you should go about with its treatment.
The term bone spur refers to a bony projection that forms at various joints in the body. These bony projections are referred to as osteophytes in medical terminology. They can occur at the end of any bone, but are most common in feet, knees, shoulders and neck. Even though they are known to occur at the joints in most of the cases, the occurrence of these spurs at the place where ligaments join the bone cannot be ruled out. The causes of bone spur differ depending on which part of the body is affected. Usually, the underlying causes of such spurs are associated with the process of aging, various ailments, injuries, etc.

Bone Spurs in Different Parts of the Body

Heel: Also referred to as a calcaneal spur, a bone spur in heel is caused due to inflammation of plantar fascia - a tissue located at the arch of the foot. This inflammation is generally attributed to excessive weight on the heel, which can be caused due to improper footwear or excessive weight gain. An obvious symptom of this problem is severe pain in the heel, which is at its peak in the morning. At times, the pain caused by heel spur can also make it difficult for the person to walk or stand.

Foot: While heel spurs can qualify to be a foot bone spur, the latter isn't restricted to a heel alone. It also includes spurs on other parts of the feet, including the top of foot. As in the case of heel spurs, even bone spurs in feet can make it difficult for the person to walk. They occur when a particular area of the foot is exposed to regular wear and tear. Basically, such bony projections in the foot occur as a part of the body repair mechanism, wherein a new bone is grown to repair the damage caused by continuous wear and tear.

Knee: As far as bone spurs in knee are concerned, the predominant causes include excessive weight on the knees and aging, both of which eventually result in calcium build up in this area. Even though this bony growth may not show any obvious symptoms initially, the person will start experience intense pain as it continues to grow and rubs against the nerve endings or soft tissues in the surrounding. The treatment usually revolves around identification of the underlying causes and treating them.

Shoulder: In shoulders, bone spurs can occur at three different locations - the shoulder joint, on the acromion and at the place where ligaments and bone meet. Among these, the ones which occur on acromion are considered to be the most painful. As the cartilage in shoulder wears out, most often, as a result of ailments such as arthritis and osteoarthritis, shoulder bones start rubbing against each other and result in a bony growth. The most prominent symptoms of bone spur in shoulder are swelling and pain in the affected area.

Neck: Also referred to as cervical bone spurs, such bony projections in the neck can cause severe discomfort to the individual. Degeneration of cartilage is one of the major factors responsible for neck bone spurs. The most prominent symptoms include pain, swelling, numbness, etc. After proper diagnosis, the medical practitioner may prescribe some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroid injections to ease the discomfort associated with it.

As with the causes, the treatment options also depend on which part of the body is affected. The diagnosis includes evaluation of symptoms, medical history of the individual, evaluation of daily lifestyle, etc. Bone spur surgery is considered to be the last resort for dealing with them.
By Abhijit Naik
Published: 7/9/2010
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