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What are Osteophytes?

Osteophytes or bone spurs are bony lumps that grow along bone edges. Osteophytes often form where bones meet each other (joints) and can form on the bones of your spine.

The main cause of osteophytes is joint damage associated with osteoarthritis. Most bone spurs cause no symptoms and may go undetected for years. You may not require treatment, but you may be recommended with treatment depending on the location of the bone spurs and how they affect your health.

Contact a rheumatologist or orthopedist through Smarter Health if you have symptoms of osteophytes.

Causes of Osteophytes

Osteophytes tend to form when your joints become inflamed (arthritis). Osteoarthritis can damage the cartilage, hard tissue, and flexible tissues that line your bones.

Osteoarthritis most commonly affects your knees, hips, spine, hands, and the joint at the base of the big toe. As the joint worsens, new bone can form around the joint called osteophytes or bone spurs.

Osteophytes can also form in the spine due to ankylosing spondylitis, which is a type of joint inflammation that attacks the spine. Symptoms often appear in the sacroiliac joint, where the spine connects to the pelvis. This condition can affect the tendons and ligaments that attach to the bones, and can lead to spinal fusion.

If you have ankylosing spondylitis, you may experience pain or stiffness in your lower back, buttocks, shoulders, hands, ribs, hips, thighs, feet, or heels. In addition, you may also experience severe pain in the morning or after prolonged sitting, a stiff back that arches forward, fatigue, swelling in the joints, or difficulty taking deep breaths.

Symptoms vary from person to person. Your condition may have a faster or slower progression than other conditions.

When to See a Doctor for Osteophytes

Speak to a general practitioner if you experience joint pain, joint stiffness, or have other symptoms such as numbness or nerve pain in different body parts. Your doctor will be able to identify the main cause.

Your general practitioner will ask about your symptoms and may examine the affected area, your joint motion and muscle strength, and evaluate your medical history.

You may be referred to undergo x-rays to look for joint inflammation and anything in the joint and osteophytes or bone spurs. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) works more effectively to check for torn ligaments or tendons. This technique uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of bone and soft tissue, including cartilage.

Symptoms of Osteophytes

In general, osteophytes do not cause signs or symptoms. You may not notice that you have bone spurs until an X-ray shows the growth.

In some cases, bone spurs can cause pain and loss of motion in the joints. Symptoms of osteophytes depend on where the bone spurs are located, such as:

  • Knee. Bone spurs in the knee can cause pain when stretching and bending the leg.
  • Spine. Bone spurs in the spine can narrow the space that contains your spinal cord, pinch your spinal cord or nerve roots, and can cause weakness or numbness in your arms or legs.
  • Pelvis. Bone spurs affecting your pelvic area can cause pain when moving the pelvis. Depending on their location, bone spurs can reduce the range of motion in your hip joint.

Talk to your doctor if you have trouble moving your joints, have joint pain, or swelling of one or more joints.

Treatment For Osteophytes

Osteophytes usually do not cause pain, but pain can occur if you have joint inflammation.

  • If you experience pain, you can take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that can help reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • If you are overweight, losing weight will help relieve tension in your joints.
  • A physiotherapist may recommend exercises that can strengthen the muscles around the affected area and help increase your range of motion.
  • Surgery is sometimes used to help manage joint inflammation. This procedure can help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis that affect your hips, knees, or joints, especially at the base of your thumb.

Osteophytes or bone spurs do not always need to be removed – unless they cause irritation on the nerves in the spine or limit the range of motion of the joint. If you need surgery to remove osteophytes, your surgeon will explain the risks and benefits of the procedure.

Treatment Cost for Osteophytes

There are numerous orthopedic surgical techniques, depending on your treatment needs. Therefore, the costs will vary greatly. The fee may include the cost of surgery, medication, possible inpatient care, and doctor’s consultation. You are recommended to prepare an additional fund of 20% to 30% for any incidental expenses. 

To calculate the estimated treatment cost for osteophytes at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of Osteophytes

You cannot completely prevent bone spurs from growing. However, you can prevent its development by adopting a healthy lifestyle, such as:

  • Maintain physical health
  • Eat a balanced and nutritious diet.
  • Maintain good posture and ergonomics, such as the right position when you work at a desk.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce extra stress on the bones and joints.
  • Prevent joint injuries by stretching and choosing safe exercise techniques. Don’t overdo it when you exercise.
  • Wear shoes that fit well and support movement while exercising.

Home Remedies for Osteophytes 

You can relieve joint pain and stiffness caused by bone spurs by resting, applying ice to the affected area, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers.

Take stress off of the joints by wearing well-fitting , supportive shoes and getting into a weight loss program if you are overweight. If the symptoms of osteophytes become worse or get out of control, contact your doctor immediately.

Even if you have bone spurs, try to stay active and live a healthy life. Avoid activities and movements that are painful and trigger relapses. Choose light, low-impact activities, such as walking instead of running.

When you exercise, be sure to take some steps that can help minimise joint damage, such as making sure you wear proper footwear, concentrate on the right techniques, and always warm up and stretch before exercising.

Have more questions about osteophytes? Write them down in the comment section below or contact a rheumatologist or orthopedic specialist at home and abroad via Smarter Health.

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