Bone spurs, or osteophytes, are outgrowths of bone that may grow along the spine or at the wrist, shoulder, knee, foot, or neck. A person with a bone spur may be asymptomatic until the protrusion irritates surrounding tissues. The most common symptoms of a bone spur in the wrist include pain, stiffness, inflammation, numbness or tingling. An X-ray, MRI, or CT scan may be done to confirm the spur. If it is symptomatic, a healthcare professional will attempt to decrease the swelling and inflammation, but sometimes surgery is necessary if the spur is pressing on a nerve.
Although bone spurs in general may result from injury, aging, tendinitis, spinal stenosis, or other diseases, those in the wrist are usually caused by osteoarthritis. Arthritis wears away the cartilage that pads the end of each bone at the joint. When the cartilage is worn down, the bones begin to scrape against one another and cause pain, and the surrounding tissues may become inflamed. The body attempts to compensate for the condition by growing new bone along the edges where the cartilage once was; this new bone is the bone spur.
Pain, inflammation, and stiffness are the three main symptoms caused by a bone spur in the wrist. Numbness and tingling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome may occur if the spur is pressing or rubbing against the medial nerve in the arm. To confirm the problem, a medical professional may take an X-ray or other scan of the wrist. If the imaging study confirms the osteophyte, treatment may begin.
The initial goal when treating a bone spur is to reduce the patient's pain as well as to decrease the swelling of the tissues surrounding the spur. The healthcare provider may recommend over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, or prescribe pain medication. Home care, such as applying cold packs or hot packs to the area, may help reduce painful symptoms. The wrist may also need to be slightly immobilized or rested; wrist exercises or physical therapy may also be suggested to improve or maintain flexibility. If the symptoms do not subside with these treatments, the medical professional may recommend a cortisone injection, which can potentially alleviate pain for several weeks.
When conservative treatments are ineffective or the symptoms are significantly affecting the patient's life, he or she may need carpal tunnel surgery. During this surgical procedure, the pressure that the bone spur is putting on the nerve will be removed. Once the pressure is off, numbness, tingling, and/or nerve pain is often eliminated.