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What Causes Bone Spurs?

What Causes Bone Spurs?

Bone spurs, aka osteophytes, are smooth, hard bumps of extra bone tissue that form on the end of a bone. They usually appear like little hooks on an X-ray, but they're not obvious when you look from the outside.

Bone spurs often crop up in joints, where two or more bones come together. The friction between the existing bones or between the soft tissues causes the spur to develop.

Most bone spurs don't cause problems, but if they rub against other bones or press on nearby nerves, you might experience pain and stiffness.

At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, our foot and ankle specialists see many cases of heel bone spurs at our offices in and around Chicago, Illinois, since about 1 in 10 adults have them. 

Heel spurs can lead to serious heel pain, and they often occur with another common podiatric condition, plantar fasciitis. Here’s more about spurs and their causes.

What is plantar fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs from the back of your heel to your toes underneath your foot. It stretches and contracts like a bowstring, which both maintains your arch and absorbs the shock of movement.

But if you repeatedly stress the tissue over time, say, by running long distances, the fascia can sustain micro-tears and become inflamed. This condition is called plantar fasciitis, and you can recognize it by the characteristic pain it creates under your heel.

Causes of bone spurs

The most common cause of bone spurs is osteoarthritis in a joint or degenerative joint disease, both of which destroy the protective cartilage on the bones’ ends. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and gout are also major culprits.

But bone spurs can also develop when you injure a ligament or tendon, such as the plantar fascia. The membrane surrounding the heel bone can also suffer micro-tears, leading to friction. Your body tries to fix the damage by adding bone to the injured area.

Other causes of foot- and ankle-related bone spurs include genes, diet, obesity, and congenital deformities.

Bone spur symptoms

You may not know you have a bone spur until you get an X-ray for something else. They only cause problems if they press on nerves, tendons, or other soft tissue structures. Then, you might feel:

If your heel spur is particularly large, you might be able to feel it through your skin when you touch the bottom of your heel. Most are asymptomatic, though about 1 in 20 leads to a stabbing pain in your heel.

If you feel a sharp pain under your heel, you may have plantar fasciitis and/or a bone spur. For an accurate diagnosis and treatment, come into Chicagoland Foot and Ankle for an evaluation.

To get started, call us at any of our locations (Mount Greenwood and Portage Park areas of Chicago, Orland Park, and New Lenox, Illinois), or book online.

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