A bony spur is a small projection that develops along the edge of the bone due to excessive stress, load or joint degeneration. A bone spur (ostephyte) will commonly develop near a joint. They can also occur in your spine and are a side-affect of osteoarthritis. (1)
What are the causes?
Excessive friction between the surfaces of a joints, especially in the absence of cartilage.
Overuse of a joint or tendon
Injury to the joint
What are the symptoms?
You don't always know that you have bony spurs. They can be present with no symptoms for long periods of time. However if they grow to large and start to impact your movement or the structures around them, that is when you run into trouble.
Heel Spurs - Pain at the bottom of your foot, often when you walk.
Shoulder Joint Spurs - Deep pain in your shoulder with movement and often when you lay on that side
Numbness/ Pins and Needles/ Weakness/ Tingling - If a bony spur is impinging a nearby nerve (for example in your spine) you can experience these symptoms.
How do they occur?
Bone spurs are usually caused by local inflammation to an area, for an extended period of time. Your body will recognise the area as damaged and begin to lay down bony deposits to try and 'fix it.'
How are bone spurs diagnosed?
Bone spurs are generally identified based on your symptoms including:
The location of your pain,
History of overuse,
Presence of Osteroarthritis or Anyklosing Spondylitis.
If you allied health professional suspects a bone spur they may ask you to get an scan to confirm the diagnosis.
What is the treatment?
It is very common to try conservative treatment before moving to surgery. A lot to the time if you strengthen the area and get the joint moving more effectively your symptoms will dissipate, even though you still have a bony spur. The key is to take the load off the structures that are irritated and reduce the chronic inflammation so the body recognises that it does not need to continue to lay down bone.
Local measures such as shoe inserts, orthotics and/ local bone spur pads might be considered to help reduce irritation to the area.
In severe and persistent cases, surgery to remove the spur may be necessary. Particularly when it is impinging on nerves or significantly restricting your movement. (2)
How does remedial massage fit in?
Bony spurs often require a team approach to treatment. More often than not your allied health professionals will opt for conservative treatment to manage and reduce your symptoms, without surgery. After a bony spur diagnosis your remedial massage therapist may be brought on board to help manage and decrease those symptoms. We work to improve your joint biomechanics by strengthening some muscles and lengthening others - through deep tissue massage, dry needling, exercise prescription and trigger point therapy. We aim to take the load off structures that are contributing to the development of the spur.
Although the bony spur cannot be removed with surgery there is often a lot that can be done to reduce your symptoms and improve your pain.