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Bone Spur in Shoulder

Chandramita Bora
Bone spurs or osteophytes are bony outgrowths or projections found on the edges of the existing bones. They usually develop in the spine, shoulders, hips, and the feet. This story will give you a brief idea about what causes the development of osteophytes in the shoulder, and its treatment.
Did You Know?
The shoulder joint is one of the most sophisticated joints in the human body, which has the greatest range of motion.
Bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, are bony outgrowths or projections that develop on the edges of a bone. They are commonly found in the joints where one bone meets another bone. They can also develop in those places where the tendons or ligaments meet the bones.
Osteophytes are usually caused by the wear and tear of the bones due to the continuous pressure applied on them, as well as the stress caused by repetitive movements, injuries, and rubbing of one bone against the other.
Basically, the bones, tendons, and the ligaments of the shoulder slowly degenerate with advancing age. The body tries to repair such bones, but in the process, it ends up growing extra bones on the edges of the existing bones. In the human body, bone spurs are more commonly found in the spine, feet, knee, shoulders, fingers, and the hips.
What Causes Bone Spurs in the Shoulder
In the shoulder, bone spurs can usually develop in two places - the shoulder joint, or the place where tendons meet the shoulder bones. Sometimes, they can also form on the acromion, which is a part of the shoulder blade. The complex structure of the shoulder makes its more prone to develop osteophytes. Several factors can be responsible for causing the development of osteophytes, of which the most important ones are described below.


Degenerative diseases like arthritis, especially osteoarthritis can cause the breakdown of the shoulder cartilage, which cushions and covers the ends of the shoulder bones. The shoulder cartilage helps the bones glide smoothly whenever we move the shoulder joint.
But when this protective covering wears away due to diseases like osteoarthritis, the bones start to rub against each other more frequently. The body tries to repair the damage caused by friction by forming more bones, which eventually causes the formation of osteophytes.

Physical Trauma

Sometimes, an injury or trauma to the shoulder joint, or the bones that constitute the joint can also cause the development of osteophytes. Even an injury to the neck and the upper back region can cause this condition.
The body tries to repair the damaged bones by growing more bones, which results in the formation of small bony growths that protrude from the original bones.

Spine and Shoulder Disorder

Among spinal disorders, a condition known as 'diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis' can cause the formation of bone spurs in the spine, shoulder, and the neck. Similarly, shoulder disorders, especially a disorder of the rotator cuff can also cause bone spurs.
Shoulder disorders are mainly caused by the process of aging and the repetitive use of the shoulder. This is the reason why such disorders are common among athletes.

Symptoms of Bone Spur

Small and smooth bone spurs may not produce any symptoms. Some osteophytes can rub against a bone or the adjoining tissues, and cause significant joint pain and swelling.
If the bone spur is large, it can reduce the space in the shoulder joint and rub against the rotator cuff (the muscles and tendons that attach the arm to the shoulder joint, and facilitate shoulder movements). This can produce the following symptoms:
✦ A dull and aching pain, which becomes intense with shoulder movements
✦ Swelling and inflammation
✦ Limited movement and stiffness

Diagnosis and Treatment

Bone spurs that do not cause pain or swelling are usually detected in the X-ray performed for another medical condition. But if pain and swelling are present, then your physician can confirm the presence of osteophytes with the help of physical examination of the shoulder joint, and imaging tests like X-rays, CT scan, and MRI.
If bone spurs are not causing pain or hindering the movement of the shoulder joint, then no treatment is required. But if they are causing significant pain and inflammation, then your physician can prescribe pain medications and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Sometimes, corticosteroid injections may be required to relieve the pain and inflammation caused by osteophytes.
Physical therapy is another treatment option for shoulder bone spurs. It includes options like ultrasound or deep tissue massage, electrical stimulation, and manual stretching of the affected area to improve joint flexibility. Simple home remedies like application of heat & ice, & compression can also help reduce the pain and inflammation to a great extent.
Occasionally, osteophytes have been observed to cause joint interlocking. This happens when they get dislodged from the original bone. Joint interlocking can severely limit the movement of that particular joint. Such a situation may necessitate surgery, which can be an open surgery or arthroscopy.
In shoulder arthroscopy, the surgical tool or the arthroscope is inserted through a small incision made on the shoulder. The surgeon inspects the tissues of the shoulder joint with the help of this tool, and then make 2 to 3 small incisions on the shoulder to insert the surgical instruments.
These instruments are used to repair or remove the damaged tissues. Sometimes, your physician may opt for open surgery to get a direct access to the bones and tissues of the shoulder joint, especially when the damage caused by osteophytes is significant.
If the shoulder joint is severely damaged by bone spurs, then total shoulder replacement can be required, wherein the end of the upper arm bone (humerus) is removed and then replaced with an artificial stem with a rounded metal head.
The socket part of the shoulder blade is polished, and then a new plastic socket is cemented, in order to prevent the recurrences of osteophytes. So, basically a prosthetic joint is placed in place of the shoulder joint (the glenohumeral joint), which helps prevent the recurrences of bone spurs.
If you experience continuous pain and difficulty in moving your arms, then it is better to talk to a physician and consider to do an X-ray of the shoulder. If osteophytes rub against the tendons of the rotator cuff, or if they get dislodged from the original bone, they can cause severe pain and reduce the normal range of motion of the shoulder joint.
Disclaimer: This story is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.