Let’s Talk about Bone Spurs

One out of ten people have bone spurs—but they may not even know it.

That’s because only one out of twenty bone-spur sufferers experience pain.

A bone spur, or osteophyte, is a bony growth that forms on a normal bone and is most commonly found in joints, which are where two or more bones come together. In the lower extremities, bones spurs often form in areas of heavy stress (e.g., the big toe joint) or where large tendons and ligaments attach (e.g., heel bone). It is usually smooth but can cause wear and tear or pain if it rubs against other bones and soft tissue.

Bone spurs form as the body tries to repair itself from damage, which is typically caused by arthritis. As we age, the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones begins to break down and wear away. This leads to swelling and pain and, in some cases, bone spurs.

Trauma to the area also leads to this disorder. Other causes include Achilles tendonitis, which can induce tenderness and pain at the heel, as well as plantar fasciitis.

These painful growths have a multitude of different symptoms, but many people may not have symptoms at all. Some indications of bone spurs are tenderness of the foot, a noticeable bony mass or knot, joint stiffness, pain when walking, and swelling.

Heel spurs can be self-treated with at-home remedies, such as resting and icing the foot. Sufferers should also elevate the foot on a stack of pillows above the heart to relieve swelling, take anti-inflammatory medicines like Advil, or receive cortisone injections. Custom-molded orthotics are the best defense as they provide cushioning and support to the spurred areas, and physical therapy may be helpful as well. Walking, running, or playing sports can worsen the pain so staying off of your feet as much as you can will help.

If conventional treatments do not work, surgery is the next alternative. In cases of serious bone spurs where surrounding soft tissue may be damaged, the surgeon would remove the spur and repair any surrounding soft tissue injury. Surgery recovery time depends on where the surgery is performed and what type of surgery was executed.

Bone spurs are a progressive problem—meaning they get worse with time—so if you think you have a bone spur, make an appointment to see a podiatric surgeon today.