Bone Spurs (Osteophytes)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Where do bone spurs occur?

Bone spurs develop in areas of inflammation or injury in nearby cartilage or tendons. Common locations for bone spurs are in the back, or sole, of the heel bone of the foot, around joints that have degenerated cartilage, and in the spine adjacent to degenerated discs. Congenital types (osteochondromas) commonly occur around the growth areas of the shoulder and knee.

What are symptoms of bone spurs?

Bone spurs may or may not cause symptoms. When they do cause symptoms, the symptoms depend on their location. Bone spurs can be associated with pain, numbness, and tenderness if they are irritating adjacent tissues, such as skin, fat pads, nerves, or tendons.

Heel spurs cause local foot pain, tenderness, and sometimes swelling. This can lead to difficulty walking due to pain at the bottom of the foot with weight-bearing. Sometimes there is accompanying inflammation of the entire bottom of the foot (plantar fasciitis) when the heel spur occurs in the bottom of the heel bone. Occasionally, bone spurs in this location are a result of inflammatory arthritis, such as from reactive arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, or diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH or Forrestier's disease).

Spurs in the spine can pinch adjacent nerves to cause numbness, tingling, and pain as well as weakness in the area of the body supplied by the affected nerve.

Some bone spurs do not cause symptoms and are incidentally detected by X-ray tests that are performed for other reasons. These spurs may have formed because of past injury to nearby tissues, such as tendons, that caused local inflammation of the bone, leading to the development of the bone spur.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/29/2015

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