What is a Bone Spur?

I see many patients a year who ask the question, “What is a bone spur?”. Many have been told they have this “disease” and most are frankly “freaked out” about it. The good news is that bone spurs have gotten a bum rap.

The video above explains everything in two minutes, but a bone spur is a natural reaction of your body to pressure on bone. Essentially, your body grows new bone. The most common cause is an unstable joint, which the video illustrates. Basically, when your joint moves in ways it wasn’t designed to move, the body forms a bone spur to stabilize the joint. Joints do this when they become unstable due to ligament damage or injury or when the muscles that are supposed to stabilize the joint can’t do their job.

Most patients have been told that they need their bone spur surgically removed. However, rarely is this the case. In addition, since the spur formed to stabilize the joint, removing it just makes the joint unstable again. So only rarely is surgery a good idea. Those instances might be when the spur is pressing on a nerve or a severely restricting range of motion (movement) in a joint.

A bone spur should be looked at as a symptom more than a disease. It means you have an unstable joint. Hence the focus of treatment is stabilizing the joint without surgery. That can usually be accomplished by several different types of injections that can help to make lax ligaments stronger and by focusing on strengthening weak stabilizing muscles.

The upshot? Don’t be freaked out if you hear from a doctor that you have a bone spur. In addition, while a surgeon may have told you he needs to cut it out, only rarely is this a good idea. That’s because a bone spur is a symptom of a bigger instability problem that needs to be fixed. We’ve had good success through the years using various types of autologous biologic injections to help stabilize joints.

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.