An osteophyte is understood to mean a bone attachment. This new bone formation usually occurs as a result of joint diseases caused by wear and tear.


What is an osteophyte?

An osteophyte is a bony outgrowth covered by smooth fibrocartilage. In most cases, it forms in degenerative bone changes on the edge of articular surfaces. The purpose of this new bone formation is the body’s attempt to relieve the joint surfaces. It distributes the pressure over a larger area. See theinternetfaqs for Lentigo Malignant Basics.

While the osteophyte structure initially appears spongy, it becomes more solid as it progresses. Osteophytes are also known as bone spurs. Bone attachment is either sharp-edged or rounded. The osteophyte itself does not cause any painful discomfort. However, pain can be caused by pressure on adjacent tissue, ligaments, tendons, bones or nerves.

Most patients do not notice the bone spur for years. People over the age of 60 are particularly affected by osteophytes. The risk of bone spurs increases with age. Women over the age of 50 are more likely to suffer from osteophytes in the ankle than men.


The most common cause for the development of osteophytes are joint changes that entail remodeling of the joints. These primarily include arthrosis or pathological changes. Sometimes the bone spurs also serve as an adaptation to stabilize a joint.

The connection to older age results from the fact that degenerative changes in the joints occur more frequently in this age group. Mechanical stimuli due to cartilage damage have a stimulating effect on a bone spur. Osteophyte formation in the knee can also be promoted by a cruciate ligament tear.

There is also a connection between the development of osteophytes and local inflammations such as arthritis or tendinitis. In addition, there are bone spur forms that are already innate. Cartilage damage in the joints is caused by excessive mechanical stress. Over time, the affected area becomes rougher and wears down, which in turn affects joint movement.

In addition, the release of certain enzymes, which have the property of breaking down the cartilage more quickly, is accelerated. This process initiates the formation of osteophytes. Exposure to mediators and growth factors is also of great importance for the development process of osteophytes.

The transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) plays a major role in the formation and development of bone spurs. The osteophytes contain chondrocytes, fibroblasts, osteoblasts, prechondrocytes and hypertrophic chondrocytes. The best-known component of bone spurs is type II collagen.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

It is not uncommon for the osteophytes to not cause any symptoms for years. However, if a bone spur is located in a critical part of the body, there is a risk of unpleasant discomfort. These areas include the knee, where tendons or bones are often affected by an osteophyte, and the shoulder.

When the bone spur puts pressure on the rotator cuff tendons, which control shoulder movement, the muscle-tendon cap becomes worn and swollen. An osteophyte in the spine can cause pain when it presses on the spinal nerves.

Feelings of numbness or failures in the supplied body areas are also possible. A bone spur can be seen on the fingers as a hard bump on the skin, which causes pain at times. If there is an osteophyte in the throat, there is a risk of swallowing or breathing problems.

A reduced blood supply to the brain is also conceivable if the bone spur exerts pressure on important blood vessels. Furthermore, tingling and feelings of weakness in the arms are often seen.

Diagnosis & course of disease

The diagnosis of osteophytes is not always easy. Thus, the pain caused by the bone spur is often non-specific and occurs in its immediate area. Therefore, the diagnosis usually only comes about by chance.

In some cases, palpation during the physical examination will reveal pain and discomfort from the osteophyte. However, it is often not possible to detect deeper bone spurs from the outside. For this reason, an X-ray examination is usually carried out, with the help of which the position and extent of the bone spur can be determined. However, if the bone formation is very small, even X-rays may not always be sufficient.

If muscles or nerves are involved, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is often performed. In most cases, the course of osteophytes is positive if appropriate treatment takes place. However, some patients experience significant disability when the bone spur presses against adjacent nerves.


Due to the osteophyte, patients suffer from various bone ailments and joint ailments as well. In most cases, the symptoms appear very suddenly, so that the disease initially shows no particular symptoms. For this reason, early treatment is usually not possible. This can lead to pain and restricted mobility, especially in the knees, which has a very negative effect on the patient’s everyday life.

The shoulder can also hurt. If the osteophyte is not treated, this usually leads to problems in the spine and also to numbness and other sensory disturbances. Difficulty swallowing and breathing also occur, making it difficult for the patient to easily take food and liquids.

The resilience of those affected also decreases significantly due to the osteophyte, resulting in significant limitations in everyday life. This condition is usually treated with medication. Various therapies and a healthy lifestyle can also have a positive effect on the disease.

When should you go to the doctor?

Osteophytes can develop over years without initially showing any unusual symptoms. If you notice the typical swelling and ossification in the area of ​​the joints, a doctor must be consulted. Nerve pain or symptoms also indicate an osteophyte or another disease that needs to be clarified. Vocal cord paralysis and poor posture are a reason for an immediate visit to the doctor, as they indicate an advanced disease. Pain therapy is unproblematic and does not require medical supervision.

On the other hand, regular check-ups are necessary after an operation to ensure a smooth healing process. Patients should consult a physiotherapist after surgery to alleviate any musculoskeletal disorders. The degenerative bone changes themselves are surgically removed or treated by an orthopedist. The routine examinations during treatment and aftercare can usually be carried out by the general practitioner. However, an orthopedist must be involved in the treatment in any case, since osteophytes and osteochondromas mainly affect the bones and must be treated by a suitable specialist.

Treatment & Therapy

If an osteophyte does not cause any symptoms, no special treatment is usually necessary. Ultimately, the therapy depends on how severe the symptoms are. The patient usually receives non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to combat the pain. Their use reduces inflammation and pain in the affected area.

Another proven form of treatment is physical therapy. The muscles around the bone spurs are strengthened through special exercises and gain more freedom of movement. In the case of severe joint impairments, the doctor can also administer cortisone to counteract the pain.

If the patient suffers from osteophytes on the leg, the use of orthoses is considered useful for pain relief. Operations, on the other hand, are rarely performed if conservative therapy is unsuccessful.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis for osteophyte is unfavorable. The cause of the affected person is a chronic disease that has a progressive course of the disease. For this reason, there is no recovery given the current medical and scientific status. Rather, a steady increase in complaints over the lifespan is to be expected.

Medical care focuses on delaying the progression of the disease. Drug therapy approaches are intended to prevent health irregularities from leading to severe impairments in quality of life or everyday life within a short period of time. Rather, it is about gaining time so that the patient can independently fulfill his everyday obligations for as long as possible.

Professional and sporting commitments are often restricted because physical performance can no longer be performed as usual. Due to the underlying disease, the risk of developing secondary disorders is increased. The emotional burden increases, so that mental disorders can often be observed.

Without treatment, the various symptoms result in an immense loss of overall quality of life. In addition to irregular movements, pain and a loss of strength, inflammation can occur. In many cases, a rapid increase in symptoms can also be expected. As a result, the person affected can no longer cope with their everyday life without help.


In order to prevent osteophytes, it is necessary to counteract the triggering causes such as inflammation. Regular exercise is also helpful.


As a rule, the follow-up measures for an osteophyte are relativestronglimited or, in some cases, are not even available to those affected. For this reason, a doctor should be consulted as soon as the first symptoms and signs appear, so that further complications can be prevented. Self-healing cannot occur here, so ideally a doctor should be consulted at the first signs and symptoms of the disease.

Most of those affected are dependent on taking various medications that can relieve the symptoms. The person concerned should always pay attention to the correct dosage and continue to take the medication regularly so that other compilations or complaints do not occur.

Most of those affected also depend on the help and support of their own family and friends during treatment. It can also prevent or alleviate depression and other mental health problems. Under certain circumstances, the disease can also lead to a reduced life expectancy of those affected.

You can do that yourself

Osteophytes normally require medical treatment. After an operation, the patient must rest first. In particular, the affected bone must not be subjected to any further stress. For this reason, the doctor will prescribe physiotherapy, which is best supported by the patient through moderate sport, but also through massage, exercises from yoga and Pilates and relaxation exercises.

In order to prevent an osteophyte from appearing again, possible causes must be identified and eliminated. The disease is often based on another condition, for example arthritic diseases or sclerosis, which must be treated first. If no cause can be determined, general measures are indicated. The patient should use the joints regularly, but without overloading them.

A healthy diet and the avoidance of stress serve as additional self-help measures for an osteophyte. If the osteophytes appear in connection with taking medication, you have to switch to another preparation. In the initial period after changing the medication, the patient should consult the doctor closely so that appropriate adjustments can be made in the event of side effects and interactions.