Osteophytes, or bone spurs, are smooth, bony growths that appear on the ends on the bones that occur over a matter of time. These growths are normal and generally appear as we age. Bone spurs themselves are not painful. When the spurs press on nerves and the spinal cord, however, it can be very painful. Bones spurs that grow on nerve openings, particularly in the spine, make the space narrower and can cause severe pain.
Medications can be taken to ease the pain and swelling of osteophytes. Ibuprofen and Naproxen are both anti-inflammatory medications that are used to treat bone spurs. These medications are usually taken three to four times a day for a maximum period of four weeks. Medication is usually given before any other treatment is administered. If mediation does not relieve the pain, cortisone shots are typically given.
Cortisone injections are steroid injections that can provide temporary relief to osteophytes. Cortisone is naturally released by the adrenal gland when your body is under stress, and is short-acting. The synthetic shots are designed to work longer than naturally occurring cortisone. The effects of the cortisone injections can be felt within a few days and usually last weeks. Cortisone is injected directly into the area of inflammation in high concentrations.
If conventional methods of treatment do not work, surgery may be necessary. The two most common surgeries for bone spurs are a cheilectomy and an arthrodesis. A cheilectomy is done to completely remove the bone spurs. An arthrodesis is done to fuse the growth to the normal part of the bone. This can often cause stiffness and an inability to move certain parts of the joint, but it will eliminate much of the pain that is caused form the spurs.