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Bone Spurs Are a Thorny Problem

If you wonder what that stabbing pain is in your heel, it may be a bone spur.

Bone spur is a general term used to describe a knobby, abnormal bone growth. Bone spurs are also known as osteophytes. The growth is usually small and often unnoticed. Scientists believe bone spurs happen because of osteoarthritis or an excess pull of a ligament or tendon. They may also occur when the body tries to heal itself after a trauma by replacing bone. Although bone spurs can form on any bone, they often  happen on joints where 2 bones come together, or where ligaments or tendons attach to bones. They tend to develop on the neck, shoulders, elbows, spine, hips, knees, and heels. Spurs are not painful. But they can cause pain if they rub on a nerve or other tissue.

Older adults are more prone to bone spurs. Spurs can also happen in young athletes or dancers because of the added stress on their muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Pain may happen while the spur is forming. But it can settle down. In some cases, pain may continue and get in the way of physical activity.

These are reasons to see your healthcare provider about a bone spur:

  • You find an abnormal growth.

  • You have pain associated with the growth.

  • You have pain or weakness at a joint.

  • You have a hard time walking because of pain in the knees or heel.

Your healthcare provider may prescribe rest, anti-inflammatory medicines, or physical therapy if the spur is causing problems for you. These noninvasive treatments often are effective in treating the bone spur.

In rare cases, surgery may be recommended. You may need it if the spur and resulting inflammation are creating serious physical problems like prohibiting walking, and the spur is not responding to other forms of treatment.

 

Medical Reviewers:

  • Joseph, Thomas N., MD
  • Walton-Ziegler, Olivia, MS, PA-C