Some people can have a bone spur in the knee and not realize it because they have no symptoms, while others have pain so severe that it interrupts their regular movement. To get a better understanding of the causes of bone spurs, symptoms of a bone spur in the knee, and how to treat it, read on.
Just what is a bone spur in the knee? Basically, it is a bony growth that can develop right on top of the actual existing bone, but it appears more often in the joints. These bony growths or bone spurs on the knee are smooth as opposed to jagged.
Medical experts believe that a knee bone spur is an extra bone that forms when the body tries to repair itself as it responds to some sort of damage. Bone spur in knee symptoms appear when there is bone on bone contact within a joint during movement. If you think this sounds unpleasant, brace yourself. A bone spur on the kneecap can be experienced for several years. In these situations, the symptoms tend to appear over time and can be really painful.
Bone spurs can grow on any part of the skeletal body; however, bone spur on the knee is rather common.
What Are the Causes, Risk Factors, and Symptoms of a Bone Spur in the Knee?
There is no one answer to the question of what causes bone spurs in the knee. Each case of bone spur can be different but the list we provide here covers the most common causes. These causes are associated with a disease/condition that leads to cartilage degeneration or is a reaction to a bone injury.
Knee osteoarthritis: This is a form of arthritis that is caused by constant wear and tear of the knee joints. With excessive pressure, friction between the knee joints, as well as stretching of the joints, the cartilage in the bones can wear out. When the body attempts to repair itself, it can create bone spurs between the joints.
Knee injuries: A trauma or injury to the knee and specifically the cartilage tissue can cause bone spurs. There are crescent-shaped shock absorbers between the femur and the tibia that when damaged or torn, can cause bone spurs. This is what is often referred to as a meniscus injury.
Age: Data shows that knee pain bone spurs can be a result of natural wear and tear associated with aging. In other words, the older we get, the more likely we are to experience a bone spur.
Other causes: Some people get a bone spur in the knee due to lack of physical activity, nutritional deficiencies, structural abnormalities during birth, or a build-up of calcium deposits in the body. Obesity has also been linked to bone spurs.
Along with advanced age, obesity, and an unhealthy diet, risk factors for bone spur in the knee include repetitive stress on the knee joint, as is the case for those who participate in high-impact sports, and those who have a family history of bone spurs. There is also some evidence to suggest that a person who has had past injuries, such as fractures and dysplasia, which is abnormal growth of a tissue or organ, are at higher risk.
As mentioned earlier, you may or may not have symptoms with a bone spur. Here’s what you can potentially experience with a bone spur on the knee.
- Severe pain in the knee
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the knee joint
- Decreased range of motion of the knee
- Knee stiffness
- Pain when bending or extending the knee
The symptoms outlined above can range from mild to severe depending on the degree of damage to the knee joint.
Complications of Bone Spur in Knee
Bone spurs can make a person feel downright miserable, but that’s not all. They can come with complications. Some people also experience permanent damage to the nerves in the knee, while others have to go through more than one treatment because surgery only brings relief temporarily and the bone spur grows back. With no treatment, bone spurs can cause severe pain and impact surrounding structures like tendons and nerves. In many cases, people with bone spurs in the knee have extreme pain when they walk.
How Is a Knee Bone Spur Diagnosed?
After reviewing your symptoms, a doctor will want to discuss any medical conditions or injuries you have experienced in diagnosing you with a bone spur. The next step will be to inspect the knee and leg for any signs of injury. Bending, extending, and rotating the knee will allow the doctor to determine your range of motion and level of pain.
Diagnostic imaging includes bone spurs in knee x-rays. They can show bone abnormalities, including degeneration and fractures. Below is a list of other diagnostic tests.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This can produce a 3D image of bones and soft tissue. It includes cartilage, muscle, and tendon damage in detail, as well as bone spurs.
- Computerized tomography (CT): A CT scan is a series of X-ray images from various angles that are then merged together to form a cross-sectional view of bones and soft tissues.
- Electromyography (EMG): The EMG shows electrical activity in the muscle during rest, as well as muscle contraction. This is usually performed if the doctor suspects muscle or nerve damage.
- Nerve conduction velocity (NCV): This shows the speed of electrical signals moving through the affected nerve. Slow speed can indicate nerve damage.
How to Treat a Knee Bone Spur
Knee bone spur treatment is not necessary if you aren’t experiencing any pain. If you have mild to moderate pain, bone spur in the knee treatment can include attempts to relieve pain and stiffness in the joints. For instance, losing weight can help decrease the load on your knees and thus lower the pain.
The following are considered common treatments for bone spurs in the knee:
- Weight management: Talk to a doctor about what type of diet is best.
- Pain relievers: Over the counter anti-inflammatories and other pain relievers can reduce the agony and inflammation.
- Physical therapy: A qualified physical therapist can help you strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee. This will increase your range of motion, reduce stiffness, and possibly pain as well. If you are going to attempt bone spurs in knee exercises, you should consult with an expert first.
- Cortisone injections: These are injections that go directly into the knee joint and provide pain relief. Those who suffer from osteoarthritis are often candidates for cortisone injections. The relief lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
- Surgery: Bone spur knee surgery is usually considered when other treatments don’t seem to improve symptoms. Although the patient may not want to hear it, knee bone spur removal surgery may be the best option. Knee arthroscopy can remove bone spurs and is a less invasive type of surgical procedure. There are situations where a bone spur is only part of the problem and a partial or total joint replacement may be required.
- Natural options: Natural treatment for bone spurs in the knee include massage therapy, acupuncture and acupressure, as well as ice packs and heat therapy. Ice packs should be applied for about fifteen-minute stretches while heat can be applied for up to two hours, as long as it is not too hot.
Prevention and Prognosis of Bone Spur in Knee
While in a lot of cases, bone spurs can’t be prevented, there are some ways you may be able to reduce your risk of developing them. If you maintain a healthy weight by eating well and exercising regularly, if you limit repetitive stress on the knees, and if you wear proper safety equipment when engaging in sports, you will significantly reduce stress on the knee joints.
In most bone spur on knee cases, the prognosis is pretty good if treatment is applied within a reasonable amount of time. As we pointed out, there are situations where the bone spur will grow and become more painful, requiring surgery.
Thousands of Americans suffer from bone spurs every year. When someone experiences the kind of knee pain that makes it difficult to carry out normal day-to-day tasks, such as walking, it is time to seek medical attention. In the case of recurring bone spurs, you shouldn’t assume you’re an expert. Just because you might have been down this road before doesn’t mean that you can take matters into your own hands. For the best possible outcome, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Also read: 16 best exercises to overcome arthritic knee problems