Osteophytes: symptoms and treatment

Osteophytes call bone outgrowths, which are formed due to uncontrolled proliferation of bone tissue. Most often there are osteophytes of the spine, characterized by the presence on the separate vertebrae in the thoracic, cervical or lumbar spine of small processes limiting mobility and causing painful sensations. Such growths take a different form, but mostly look like a spike or a hook.

If we consider the physiology of osteophyte formation, then this process looks approximately this way:

  • bones of the spine and joints lose lubrication
  • they rub against each other, which destroys their surface
  • ossifications appear at the joints of the vertebrae or joints, and then the adjacent ligaments, periosteum and other tissues are involved in the process
  • the formation of bone growth occurs.

Thus, the osteophyte is a protective mechanism that does not allow the joint or bones to continue to collapse. That is, its function is to prevent further degradation of bone structures, but its appearance leads to the fact that a person has specific symptoms that interfere with his movement.

If this pathology is not treated, it becomes the basis for the development of such a serious bone disease as spondylosis.


In modern medical practice, four types of such pathological disorders are distinguished. The first type is post-traumatic growths . These are mainly osteophytes of the knee joint and other (hip and elbow), as these areas are most often injured.

Osteophytes of the knee joint and other joints occur as a result of dislocations, fractures or other serious injuries. And it is not necessary that the bones are damaged — it is enough to cause the periosteum to tear, and this can lead to the formation of a bone build-up in the area of ​​damage.

The second type of this pathology is periosteal . These osteophytes of the spine or joints arise when there is an acute or chronic inflammatory process in the periosteum. This, in turn, leads to ossification of various parts of the bone or joint, and in a disorderly manner, causing the development of build-up on different surfaces.

The third type is degenerative-dystrophic . Usually this kind of pathology occurs in osteophytes of the foot and other joints of the limbs and is caused by arthrosis. One of the obvious signs of such a disease is a violation of mobility in the joints, until their complete immobility. There is a degenerative-dystrophic type also when osteophytes of the spine develop.

The fourth type of disease is massive growths , developing as a result of damage to the bones, joints or bodies of the spine with tumors or their metastases. Sometimes spongy growths appear with benign tumors on the bone, and the cause is a disruption in the growth of cartilaginous tissue.

Given the location of the bony growth, you can also divide the pathology into several types:

  1. cervical spine osteophytes
  2. Lumbar
  3. Bronchial bone growths
  4. hip, knee and elbow joints
  5. edges, collarbone
  6. feet (ankle, calcaneus)

There are also marginal osteophytes of vertebral bodies — this is a pathology characterized by the rapid growth of numerous spines on the vertebrae, and these spines are quite large, which causes the symptoms of the disease to be severe.

Causes of appearance

Reasons for the formation of osteophytes:

  • heredity;
  • general aging of the organism
  • wrong lifestyle (lack of exercise and poor nutrition)
  • household, athletic or working body overload
  • traumatic injuries;
  • some diseases, for example, flat feet and osteochondrosis
  • excess weight and impaired metabolic processes

Lack of calcium in the body also leads to bone damage and the development of osteophytes, so the prevention of the disease can include eating in increased amounts of calcium-containing foods, and also in the conduct of an active lifestyle.

Symptom Complex

Symptoms of the disease depend on the stage and localization of osteophytes. There are general and local symptoms, so first you need to consider the general, and then, taking into account the location of the growths — local.

Common symptoms of the disease are as follows:

  1. pain in the area of ​​various intensity lesions
  2. mobility impairment
  3. crunching and creaking in the affected joint
  4. damage to surrounding tissues with the development of inflammation in them
  5. local swelling, swelling

If you do not treat the disease, the symptoms gradually increase, up to the immobilization of the patient in one area or another. In addition, with the progression of the disease, there is a risk of developing severe complications leading a person to disability.

If we talk about local symptoms in a pathology such as the osteophyte of the spine, they complement the above-described clinical picture and the location of the growths affects these or other additional manifestations of the disease. Thus, if a person has osteophytes of the cervical spine, the following symptoms are observed, in addition to the above:

  • difficulty in turning and tilting the head
  • Irradiation of pain in shoulders, hands and even feet
  • headaches;
  • ringing in the ears;
  • the appearance of a kind of limiter, because of which the head can not be turned.

Signs that a person had bony growths of the thoracic region may be as follows:

  1. a specific localization of pain (in the shoulder blade, shoulder, hand or even fingers)
  2. Increased pain in sneezing or coughing

Symptoms of the lesion of the vertebral bodies of the lumbar region are as follows:

  • localization of pain in the lumbar region
  • irradiation in the foot, buttocks
  • change in sensitivity in the lower limbs, until the appearance of numbness
  • podvorachivanie foot while walking;
  • urination disorder.

The marginal osteophytes of vertebral bodies are manifested by such symptoms as:

  1. Rapid build-up of pain
  2. Severe pain syndrome.

Depending on where the marginal osteophytes of vertebral bodies were formed, visual disturbances, ringing in the ears, weakness of the limbs and disruption of the bowel and bladder may occur. If the growths strongly squeeze the bone marrow, numbness in the limbs, loss of motor sensitivity and vascular disorders, including dizziness, abdominal pain, tinnitus, and visual impairment may occur.

With this form of pathological condition, like hip osteophytes, the patient can complain about:

  • pain during sitting and standing position
  • mobility impairment and joint deformity
  • gait violation.

Symptoms that occur when the knee and elbow joints are affected are similar to those described above — this is the same pain, mobility impairment and deformation. Deformation develops if you do not get rid of the disease in a timely manner, so you should treat it in the early stages, when the process of destruction can be stopped, and not when irreversible changes occurred.

Bony growths on the calcaneus are popularly called «spurs» in the people, and many people aged over 40 face this misfortune. The calcaneal growths develop with regular increased stress on this area, or because of trauma.

The calcaneal adrenal gland (referred to as the heel spur or Haglund’s disease) is always manifested by severe pain and the appearance of abnormalities in the mobility of the foot.

In the early stages of pain occurs only with prolonged standing, walking or physical exertion, but with progression it becomes constant, and the mobility of the foot is limited, until complete immobilization. A person needs to develop joint for some time in order to get out of bed in the morning, since a distinctive symptom of the calcaneus osteophytes is a strong morning soreness.

The further progress of the disease leads to the impossibility of correctly setting the foot when walking, which is why the person’s gait changes — he tries not to stand on the heel, which leads to limp.


To get rid of such pathology as osteophytes of the spine or joints, it is possible only after the correct diagnosis is established. Therefore, diagnostics is important in the treatment of pathology, which consists in carrying out an X-ray examination of the affected area (joints, vertebral bodies), computed tomography or MRI.


When the disease is at an early stage and does not cause symptoms, it is preferable not to resort to treatment, as this can cause more harm. Such people are recommended active lifestyle and proper nutrition, as well as eating foods with high calcium content.

If the symptoms have already appeared, the treatment of osteophytes can be medicated or surgical, depending on their severity, type and localization.

Conservative therapy includes:

  1. taking medications that protect joints from further destruction (chondroprotectors)
  2. use of local medicines (painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs)
  3. exercise therapy
  4. physiotherapy treatment depending on the location of osteophytes;
  5. massage;
  6. use of orthopedic devices (canes, bandages, fixators)
  7. if a person suffers from excessive body weight, its normalization is shown.

Surgical treatment of osteophytes is shown in neglected cases, when the growths squeeze the nerve endings and vessels, disrupting the blood flow at the site of localization, followed by the development of severe symptoms. Bony calcifications of the calcaneus bone are removed only with severe pain and a person’s inability to walk. The spinal bodies of the spine are removed when they acquire large dimensions and disrupt the integrity of surrounding tissues, etc. This operation shows the prosthesis of the joint or spinal bodies.