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What are Knee Osteophytes?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Knee osteophytes are small spurs that form in and around the knee joint as a result of chronic inflammation. Osteophytes in general are often associated with arthritis and are a sign of an underlying problem, rather than being a standalone medical issue. Treatments are available for knee osteophytes, to address both the bony growths and the inflammation causing the osteophytes to develop in the first place. Care may be supervised by a joint specialist or an orthopedic surgeon.

Bony projections in the knee can limit range of motion in addition to causing pain. They can also lead to inflammation, keeping the joint in a chronic state of pain and irritation. When people report to the doctor with knee pain, X-rays can be used to study the knee. If osteophytes are present, their severity can be evaluated and discussed, and a treatment plan developed.

For patients with relatively mild inflammation and small osteophytes, anti-inflammatory drugs, pain management, and physical therapy can be used to address the problem. The joint can be slowly strengthened and the patient can be provided with support. While a return of perfect joint function is not possible, the patient's pain and soreness will be limited and it may be possible to resume many activities.

If osteophytes are severe and causing serious problems, surgery may need to be considered. In the knee surgery, the knee osteophytes will be removed and the surgeon may take other steps to address the inflammation in the joint. Knee replacement surgery can be considered for serious cases where it is clear the joint will remain a source of chronic pain and frustration for the patient.

As people age, they are more likely to develop inflammation in joints like the knee. Athletes and people with a history of knee injury are at higher risk, because their knees have been worked harder. In these individuals, knee osteophytes can be a common part of the aging process. Stretching the joints and using physical therapy exercises to condition them before signs of inflammation and pain set in can be beneficial. It is also advisable to seek medical attention when joint pain onsets, as the earlier arthritis is diagnosed, the more treatment options will be available.

A doctor may use a patient's knee osteophytes to judge the development of progressive joint disease. Repeat X-rays can show how a joint is changing over time and indicate whether the patient is responding to treatment.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By PinkLady4 — On Jun 29, 2011

If your knees are functioning well enough that you can walk a mile or so, there are some self-help treatments you can do to ease the pain and inflammation. In my case knee osteophytes are part of the problem

I'm trying my best to follow a program.In the first place, I have got to lose a good 20 pounds. Did you know that just being 10 pounds overweight can put a lot of extra pressure on your knees and feet?

I use a arthritis CD to do exercises designed for those with arthritis.

Taking ibuprofen only when I need it is something I'm trying to do.

My shoes have a big toe box, they have extra arch support and keep my foot from pronating. Feet that have some arthritis in them can push the knee joint out of alignment.

I'm dedicated to continuing exercise for my knees even if it hurts. You know the old saying, "use it or lose it."

By Esther11 — On Jun 28, 2011

The article's description of knee osteophytes sounds just like my knees. I've had increasing pain and inflammation in both knees for several years. I've also noticed bone spurs around the joint. I did go to an orthopedic surgeon, who took an x-ray and said there's not much that can be done. He said not to walk on cement and don't go up and down stairs.

Well, I live in a three story house and I walk a couple of miles about three times a week to strengthen my muscles around the knee joints.

It sounds like there are a number of treatment options you can do - pain management, strength exercises, and surgery to remove the osteophytes Next time I go to an orthopedist, I'm going to be more proactive and ask a lot more questions.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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