At TheHealthBoard, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What Are Osteophytes?


Osteophytes is the medical name for the overgrowth of bone tissue more commonly called "bone spurs." Despite the term "spurs," they are actually small round lumps of extra bone that grow around joints. Osteophytes are the body’s attempt to compensate for existing bone and ligament degeneration due to age or injury. Unfortunately, the body’s attempt to heal itself this way is unsuccessful.

Bone spurs are formed by the body for the purpose of limiting or stopping motion in a deteriorating joint that becomes too loose. Since degenerative joint conditions are characteristic of athletes and the aged, osteophytes are common in those with sports related injuries or arthritis. In fact, they often cause arthritis, as well as a condition called spinal stenosis. Other factors in the development of spurs include bone deformations, fractures, hereditary factors and poor posture.

A picture of a healthy spine and one with osteophytes, also called bone spurs, connected with osteoarthritis.
A picture of a healthy spine and one with osteophytes, also called bone spurs, connected with osteoarthritis.

Osteophytes are most often found along the spine, but they may be present on any bone in the body. Though not a source of pain themselves, they may create pressure on any of the nerves that branch out from the spinal column to result in painful and sometimes debilitating medical conditions. In many cases, a person with bone spurs may never suffer any symptoms.

A woman with bone spurs in her neck.
A woman with bone spurs in her neck.

When symptoms do exist, they are usually due to pressure on any number of nerves in the body. Tingling or numbing sensations in the arms, hands, legs or feet can signify the presence of osteophytes along the spine. It is also common to experience muscle cramping, spasms or weakness. Depending on the size and location of the spurs, it is possible for sufferers to lose the ability to move part of their body. When they are present on the upper part of the vertebrae in the neck region, symptoms can include headaches, dizziness and general neck pain.

Some bone spurs can be identified through the use of a CT scan.
Some bone spurs can be identified through the use of a CT scan.

The symptoms that result from osteophytes are also characteristic of other medical problems. To be certain that they are in fact caused by bone spurs, a medical professional will perform x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scans and electroconductive tests to assess nerve function. Treatment may include anti-inflammatory medications such as cortisone, rest, physical therapy and, in severe cases, surgery.

What Causes Osteophytes?

Osteophytes that are located in the upper vertebrae can lead to dizziness and headaches.
Osteophytes that are located in the upper vertebrae can lead to dizziness and headaches.

So, what exactly causes osteophytes? Keep in mind that osteophytes are small projections that can protrude from joints throughout the body, particularly the spinal column. They are also called bone spurs, and they can grow off of the bone if the bone is exposed to a lot of irritation.

Even though there are a lot of potential causes of osteophytes, one of the most common causes is osteoarthritis. This is one of the most common chronic medical conditions from which people suffer, and it can lead to the development of bone spurs. When someone has been diagnosed with arthritis, the joints throughout the body can be impacted significantly. This is a condition that can lead to a significant amount of inflammation, and it could contribute to the development of bone spurs. As the cartilage that lines the joints starts to degrade, osteophytes could develop.

What Are the Symptoms of Osteoarthritis?

Because osteoarthritis can lead to the development of osteophytes, many people are curious about the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Joint Pain: Joint pain is the hallmark symptom of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can show up just about anywhere in the body; however, a lot of people notice this condition and their knees, hips, ankles, and shoulders.
  • Reduced Range of Motion: Individuals who suffer from osteoarthritis may also notice that they do not have the same range of motion as they once did. For example, people might not be able to step as far because of osteoarthritis.
  • Swelling: Some individuals who suffer from osteoarthritis might also notice swelling of the joints. For example, if individuals have arthritis in their hips, they might notice that their hips begin to swell up.
  • Redness: There are some situations where people who suffer from osteoarthritis might also notice redness. Redness is a sign of inflammation, and it can make the joint feel warm.
Osteophytes may occur after a fracture.
Osteophytes may occur after a fracture.

Keep in mind that osteoarthritis can present differently in different people. Not everyone who suffers from osteoarthritis will develop osteophytes. Furthermore, there are other possible causes of osteophytes as well. Osteoarthritis is just one of the most common causes.

Is Disc Osteophyte Complex the Same as Herniated Disc?

There are some people who get disc osteophyte and herniated disc confused. It is true that one of the most common locations of osteophytes is in the spinal column. It is also true that a herniated disc can develop in the spinal column. Even though both of these medical problems impact the back, they are different things.

An osteophyte is a bone spur that develops in the body. It is possible that someone could develop a bone spur in the back. This is called a disc osteophyte. For example, if someone has a bone spur in the back, this could irritate the spinal column, leading to a wide variety of symptoms. For example, individuals who have a disc osteophyte in the lumbar region could notice shooting pains that travel from the back down the leg. This develops because the disc osteophyte could compress the nerve. At the same time, this is not the same thing as a herniated disc.

What Is a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc takes place when one of the disks that usually divide the vertebrae ruptures. These discs are important because they act as a cushion in between the vertebrae in the spinal column. Over time, these discs could start to dehydrate, making them more prone to rupturing. Or, someone could be involved in a traumatic accident, such as a motor vehicle collision, which could lead to a herniated disc.

The most common location for a herniated disc is just between L3 and L4, or centered between L4 and L5. If someone suffered a herniated disc in this location, the vertebrae collapse on one another. This leads to a significant amount of inflammation, and it could irritate the spinal nerves in this location. For example, individuals who have a herniated disc in this location may notice shooting pains that travel from the back into the legs. Because the symptoms are similar to those of a disc osteophyte, it is easy to get the conditions confused.

How Is a Herniated Disc Treated?

There are multiple treatment options available for a herniated disc. Even though surgery is common, it is not universal. Individuals who undergo surgery for a herniated disc typically receive a spinal fusion. The goal is to fuse the two vertebrae together to prevent them from rubbing against one another. This can treat the back discomfort associated with the injury.

Discussion Comments


I am a 54 year old male. I have been having a pain on my left hand side from about a year ago and I put it all down to losing 23kg through' diet an working on the treadmill - could it just me muscular? Recently it has become painful in that standing for a period of time it get the pain on the left side of my upper body and then moves around to the front and then I need to sit down or ly down only for a few minutes and away I go again until the pain comes back. I can go on the treadmill and jog and jog with no pain and does not make sense as I am standing!

I had a bone scan and it has been reported that I have anterolateral osteophytes at T9/T10 level of my spine.

I am wearing a 'tens' machine that helps somewhat when driving the car but what are the long term issues/what can I do to ease the pain?


This is a great article! Told me exactly what I wanted to know! Thank you so much for your help!

I have a bone spur on my right hip and in the middle of my back on my spine just above the waist and it is very painful. But now I know just what to do, and who to go see to get help. Thanks a million for addressing this issue here on your wonderful site.


I am a 32 year male. I have consistent pain in around my knee cap. X-rays suggest that I have marginal osteophyte growth on my patella. What does it mean?


I'm suffering from left hand bone fracture pain. I have not an X-ray. I had the classical treatment when I was eight years old, but I have pain at 24 years old. What is the remedy?


I have a lump of flesh on my second toe of my left foot. An X ray revealed underneath the lump was a small bone spur. I am a 42 year old white female. Not liking this at all. In February, I had right foot surgery to fix a stress fracture of the 5th metatarsal.


I'm a single male, age 41. I'm a lorry driver for a small hire company contracted to a local box company delivering goods. I've just been told I have serve Osteoarthritis and also Osteophytes in both my hands (thumbs). I don't wish this on anyone. I'm in 24/7 pain, and now starting to have problems holding and lifting heavy objects.


I am a 35 year old male. I've got an osteophyte issue also on my lumbar area. I feel back pain almost every day. I've got sublaxation degenration which has caused chronic dizziness and a headache. I am presently being treated under the care of a chiropractor.


I'm a 43 year old female. I have just had a full body xray and I have been given my report and it has come back that I have osteophytes and my left hip is higher than my right one, and also the pelvic rotation to the left is seen. What can I do? There are a few more problems but I just want to see if anybody can give me advice.


When I found my first bone spur about 10 years ago. It was on the inner ankle, and I had no idea that is was a symptom of degenerative joint disease, a.k.a., osteoarthritis.

Now the second one has formed on the middle joint of the right ring finger. This was right after acupuncture for the swollen finger. Now my 'disease" has a name: Osteoarthritis.


I'm am a 42 year old man and have been suffering with osteophytes in my neck for a year now. The pain is down my arm and from the elbow down it feels numb. I had to give up driving too, as the movement from driving causes the pain to get worse. i have had acupuncture which worked for a while but not lasted long. What can be done next? I'm a hairdresser. could this affect my job in the future?


I am a 56 year old person. For the last month, I have been suffering knee pain in both knees. I have been feeling extreme pain in both knees. I cannot extend both knees fully.

The X-Ray report says: Both knees AP lateral (standing) mild to moderate reduction in joint spaces is noted. Tiny osteophytes are also noted. I took calcium tabs for 15 days, and did physiotherapy for eight days as per the doctor's advice, but sometimes it still hurts. Please advise. Dasgupta, Mumbai.


i am a 33 year old lady having complaints of knee joint pain for four years. i was diagnosed as having chondromalacia patellae. The x rays show osteophytes. My vitamin d3 levels are very low(3.6 pg/ml). what should I do?


i have the same. only cortisone helps. addressed to nr 15.


my father is experiencing severe pain which affects the left side of his back and the nerve going down his left leg.He cannot go without his medicines. the doctor told us that he has lumbar osteophytosis. he was not able to walk for a month. He is 65 years old. what can be the remedy for his illness?


I have been suffering from neck pain for the last eight years, caused from a fall. My doctor finally sent me for a cervical spine x ray. Since then, we have found the left c5 and c6 nerve foramina are narrowed as a result of osteophytes. Has anyone had this before? and how did you get this cured?


I have had back pain for a couple of days. My GP ordered CT scan for lumbosacral spine. The results showed that I have osteophytes on my spine. Currently on anti inflammatory tablets 500mg twice a day.

I decided to go join gym and lose a bit of weight. I am 160 cm tall and 61.1 kg is not assumed overweight. However, the lighter the better for the spine and I decided to go for acupuncture as well. I'll be updating my progress.


I've been suffering from severe back pain for two years. Recent X-rays revealed that I have scoliosis in the dorsolumbar and lumbar spine, also osteophytes in the dorsal and lumbar spine. I'm 27 years old, female and overweight. Please advise.


I am a 52 year old lady, suffering from early stage of osteophyte at my knees. what treatment is better for me? my weight is 78kg.


I have had bone spurs on both ankles and do not recommend the surgery. i will be needing more.

I have now also found out i have a spur on my spine at 24! meant to be after 60! so no idea what to do now!


i have a bone spur in my toe, and i have had two removed from my toe nail. It is so painful.


Back pain is fact of today's life style and allopathy system provides only the pain relief albeit, temporary. This condition can be best treated by alternative medicines like acupunture or SU JOK therapy without any side effects of drugs. One needs to search a good neighbourhood SU JOK therapist.


I am suffering from severe back pain since last three to four years. the pain starts from the lower back and affects my legs as well. it has curbed my movements and dexterity. recently x rays doctors diagnosed that i have osteophytis. is there any cure for this condition? i am a 31 year old active male, and till last year i was into sports. shankar, shillong


I have a bone spur on my ankle which can get very painful after walking any distance as well as, what can only be described as a "big hard ball" appears on the top of my ankle. I have been to a specialist and they suggest surgery, however, my doctor and a few other professional people I have spoken to try and put me off it as it could cause further problems.

I am terrified to have surgery in case it does make my mobility worse (I am a very active person.) Any suggestions or advice? I am a 46 year old very healthy female.


I have had hip pain due to a spur for about two years now and the pain is so bad that it affects the left side of my back and the nerve going down my left leg. I cannot go without pain meds. I have had a ton of x-rays, three mri's on my back, hip and pelvis, a bone scan, two Chiopractors and physical therapy. All they can tell me is that it may be muscle pain. It is not muscle pain. Something like a bone spur is pressing against the nerve. I cannot take it any more. i want my life back. One doctor found a small bone spur on my hip but said he cannot take it off. He said he has never operated on anything like that. So, off to another doctor I go!


I am a 46 year old married lady. I am suffering from severe knee pain. I went for x-ray report saying that osteophytes are near patella. What is the treatment for this?

My health history is I have hypo-thyroidism and about 85 kgs weight. I am not able to walk continuously left knee is paining a lot.


I'm suffering from severe back pain for 2 years. MRI does not conclusively show any remarkable damage. Recent X-Ray reveals Lumber Lordosis and Osteophytes.

What is the remedy ?

I'm 38 years married male, doing sedentary job.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • A picture of a healthy spine and one with osteophytes, also called bone spurs, connected with osteoarthritis.
      By: peterjunaidy
      A picture of a healthy spine and one with osteophytes, also called bone spurs, connected with osteoarthritis.
    • A woman with bone spurs in her neck.
      By: paisan191
      A woman with bone spurs in her neck.
    • Some bone spurs can be identified through the use of a CT scan.
      By: Konstantin Sutyagin
      Some bone spurs can be identified through the use of a CT scan.
    • Osteophytes that are located in the upper vertebrae can lead to dizziness and headaches.
      By: elizalebedewa
      Osteophytes that are located in the upper vertebrae can lead to dizziness and headaches.
    • Osteophytes may occur after a fracture.
      By: Fotoluminate LLC
      Osteophytes may occur after a fracture.