As we age, bone health becomes increasingly important, especially for women, who are most at risk for bone density issues. Bone spurs or osteophytes are extra growths of the bone that can happen on the edge of any bone. Symptoms can include joint pain, tenderness, swelling and loss of motion in that affected joint. Bone spurs occur most commonly around the joints and can occur in the spine as well. They are not painful but can cause pain when they rub against other bones and nerves. Tendonitis or osteoarthritis are often one of the main causes of bone spurs. In some cases, they are a natural part of aging. Some even cause no symptoms and not even need any treatment. Others require pain medications and surgery.
Exercise can prevent bone loss. The best types of exercise are those that force your bones to work against gravity, or weight-bearing exercise. Examples included walking, running, aerobics, dancing or weight-lifting. I tell my patients to aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity, 3 to 4 times a week.
A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D are essential for good bone health. For individuals 51 years and older, 1,200 mg of daily calcium is recommended by the Institute of Medicine. Calcium can be found in dairy products and dark leafy green vegetables, as well as supplements. Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption and bone health. This vitamin is normally made by the body through sunlight exposure, it can also be found in foods such as egg yolks, liver and saltwater fish. Again for those who are unable to get sufficient vitamin D, supplements are a good alternative.
While the majority of individuals benefit from calcium and vitamin D, some have conditions that are adversely impacted by increased calcium, so it's important to discuss new supplements or changes in your diet with a physician.
Symptoms of bone spurs depend solely on the location of this growth. Common areas include the neck, knee, spine, fingers, heel and shoulder. Spurs that occur on the shoulders and knees may it harder to move the joints. Those that occur on the heal can cause foot pain and hinder regular walking. They are only treated if they cause symptoms and treatments include pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications, orthotics and surgery.
Almost 20 million people in the U.S. have osteoarthritis and many of these patients also have bone spurs. Arthritis which is the degeneration of the spine puts patients at risk as well as spinal stenosis and plantar fasciitis.
Treatments include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, advil or motrin, custom food supports and even surgery. To diagnose bone spurs, doctors will evaluate a patient's medical history and perform a full physical exam. They may even order x-rays, CT scans or an MRI.