What Is at the Root of Your Bone Spurs?

May 7th 2016

How Bone Spurs Form

Bony protrusions generally occur when the human body tries to repair itself by making extra material. Bone spurs form in response to stress, rubbing or pressure that occurs over long periods of time. The aging process causes osteoarthritis as the body's natural lubrication systems break down. Osteophytes may form along edges of bone to protect areas that do not have the proper amount of cartilage to move joints. Rarely, bone spurs could happen as a result of congenital birth defects such as an osteochondroma.

Where Bone Spurs Occur

Osteophytes could occur in the spine and feet of older patients as soft tissues break down over time within well-used joints. When ligaments in the back become inflamed, the discs between vertebrae may lessen, and bone grows over the spot to compensate. Tight ligaments could also create protrusions, especially in people who perform repetitive motions over long periods of time. Dancers and runners may develop osteophytes in feet, whereas people who use their shoulders all the time, such as baseball players and painters, could cause bony protrusions in those joints. Heel spurs could occur when the Achilles tendon breaks down. Tendonitis, or inflammation of the tendons, may lead to osteophytes anywhere tendons become injured, stressed or too tight.

Diagnosing Bone Spurs

Doctors diagnose osteophytes after performing a battery of tests. Sometimes, a medical professional may feel a bone spur near a joint as he attempts to narrow down where your pain is occurring. Imaging tests may reveal how your bones look within your body. An X-ray can show any changes made to normal bones over time. MRI and CT scans may give doctors a better way to see your joints in three dimensions. Electroconductive tests reveal the degree and seriousness of injuries to your spine and spinal cord if a bone spur happens near your vertebrae.


Doctors refer to small points of bony growth that protrude from normal bones as osteophytes, but they are also commonly known as bone spurs. These protrusions generally form smooth bone, rather than sharp points, and may not show any symptoms at all. However, you could experience pain from bone spurs if these new growths rub against softer tissues or other bones.

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