Properly known as an osteophyte, a bone spur is an abnormal, bony growth found most often in joints. Osteoarthritis is the underlying culprit in most cases, although rheumatoid arthritis or traumatic injury may also cause them. Ironically, bone spurs are usually the result of one of the body's defense mechanisms.

As cartilage - the tough, elastic tissue that serves as a cushion between bone joints - wears down due to the effects of osteoarthritis, bone begins to painfully rub against bone. The body tries to compensate for this malfunction by forming new bone alongside the existing ones. This repair often forms an irregular lump of bone (an osteophyte) on the surface of the older bone, which, in turn, produces more pain in the joint.

Common Treatments:

The basic strategy for bone spur treatment aims at reducing their future occurrence by treating the underlying cause, while relieving pain caused by existing spurs. This strategy includes medication, physical therapy and cortisone injection.

Physicians typically prescribe anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing drugs initially for a few weeks, along with joint rest. A physician may also recommend physical therapy to help restore flexibility to the joint and rebuild strength. It is highly recommended, though, that you consult a physician about this mode of treatment to rule out any underlying factors that therapy might aggravate.

Another treatment physicians regularly use with bone spur patients is a cortisone injection. Cortisone, a type of steroid, has been found to significantly reduce joint swelling - although only temporarily - that in turn reduces pain. Again, your physician can best determine if this is the right course of action for you.

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