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Bone Spurs in the Knee

A bony projection that develops along the edge of a bone within a joint is known as a 'spur'. Bone spurs in the knee is a painful condition that can restrict the normal movements of the leg.
Bidisha Mukherjee
Last Updated: Jan 23, 2018
Knee bone spurs are abnormal, knobbly bone growth or projections that develop along the joint margins of the knee. Bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, can affect any part of the body, including the shoulders, hips, hands, knees, and the neck.
They develop in the joint areas where the bones meet other bones, or where the bones connect to the ligaments and tendons. The knee joint consists of a femur or upper leg, tibia or lower leg, and the kneecap. Bone spurs can form in any of these joints.
In majority of the cases, there are no significant symptoms, and the condition can remain undetected for years. However, in some cases, when it causes pain and loss of motion of the joints, it needs to be treated immediately. Here is relevant information on the causes, symptoms, and the suitable treatment options for this condition.
Causes of Bone Spurs in the Knee
Knee Osteoarthritis: One of the most common reasons for bone spurs in the knees is knee osteoarthritis, which is characterized by constant wear and tear of the knee joints. With excessive pressure, constant friction between the knee joints and stretching of the joints, the cartilage in the bones tend to wear out. The body attempts to repair this damage done to the cartilage by creating bone spurs between these joints. The extra surface provided by the bone spurs is used for load-bearing and for preventing further damage to the knees.
Knee Injuries: Injury to the cartilage tissue, also known as a meniscus injury, can also lead to bone spurs. When the crescent-shaped shock absorbers between the femur and the tibia, also known as meniscus, are damaged or torn, it can lead to bone spurs.
Other Causes: Some of the other causes of this condition are obesity, aging, lack of physical activity, poor posture, structural abnormalities during birth, and nutritional deficiencies. Buildup of calcium deposits in the body, degeneration of the joints, and hereditary factors can also lead to the appearance of bone spurs.
Related Symptoms
In the early stages of this development, there are no symptoms at all. This is because the spurs do not cause any pain on their own. However, when the bony enlargement in the joints grows and starts putting pressure on the nearby structural components, which includes other bones or nerves, painful symptoms show up.
As the spur gets rubbed against the tissues, ligaments, and tendons present in the knee, they get irritated; and inflammation occurs in them.
There is persistent pain experienced in the knee area. It tends to get aggravated during movement of the knee joint, especially during activities that require bending of the knees, like squatting or kneeling.
In worst cases, patients find it difficult to bend and extend their knees, or stretch the leg, because of an excruciating pain that is felt.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
A doctor will detect a bone spur growth with the help of a physical examination. For further confirmation, he would conduct tests like X-rays, CT scan and MRI scan. Knee bone spurs without any symptoms would mostly not require any kind of treatment.
Non-surgical Methods
The treatment for painful spurs depends on the intensity of its symptoms. In case of milder symptoms, non-surgical methods can help in containing the pain and swelling in the knees.
  • When the pain is mild, the patient is advised to rest the affected knee as much as possible. The use of oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil and Motrin, and knee-stretching exercises are recommended to manage the localized joint pain.
  • Those who are overweight are advised to lose weight in order to minimize the stress on the knee joint.
  • In cases where the pain is severe, steroids would be administered by the doctor. This would not only help get rid of the pain, but might even stop any further growth of the spurs.
Surgical Excision
If all these non-surgical methods of treatment fail to show any improvement, and the pain becomes unbearable for the patient, then the doctor would opt for the excision of the spur. The main aim of this surgery is to cut and remove the bony projection, in order to alleviate the pressure exerted by it on the surrounding soft tissues. This is executed by an open surgery under general anesthesia. This surgical option is availed as a last resort, and is undertaken only if the overall health condition of the patient is good. Based on the size of the bone growth and general health of the patient, recovery may take around six weeks. This is followed by physical therapy and a rehabilitation program, which is essential to restore the strength and flexibility of the knee joint.
Home Remedies for Bone Spurs
Apart from these conventional treatment options, there are some alternative methods of treatment like massage therapy, acupuncture, and acupressure; that have given good results to many people. Here are a few home remedies to get relief from the knee pain and inflammation.
Ice Packs: Apply ice packs on the knee to ease the pain and inflammation in the joints. You can also use a cold compress for easing the pain. This can be done for around fifteen minutes at a stretch.
Heat Therapy: Take a cheesecloth, dip it in warm linseed oil, and place it over the painful knee. Then cover it up with a plastic bag and place a heating pad over it. This heat application should be continued for 2 hours, to ease the pain in the knees You can also prepare a flaxseed hot pack by placing heated flaxseed in a cloth and applying it to the painful spur.
Curcumin Extract: This extract has excellent pain-relieving properties. Basically, it is the pigment component of turmeric, and has the natural ability to reduce inflammation. The recommended daily dosage of this supplement is 500 - 1000 mg, and has to be taken on an empty stomach. Most people get amazing results after regular intake of this extract, for 6 weeks.
To avoid this condition from developing, eat healthy food, have a regular intake of calcium supplements, maintain proper body weight, and exercise daily. Do not kneel, squat, or do any activity that is associated with frequent bending of the knees. These are some simple measures that can be taken in order to reduce the chances of such growths. People having painful bone spur symptoms like swelling and restricted movement, must consult the doctor without any delay. Prompt treatment can prevent damage and deformity of the knee joint.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.
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