The most common symptoms of a hip bone spur are pain, numbness, and swelling in the hip joint or further down into the knee. Knee pain is sometimes actually related to problems in the hip that are “referred” down, usually via nerve signals; this is usually a consequence of repetitive leg motion like walking that depends equally on both joints. Most people with hip spurs don’t have any symptoms at first, though. The condition usually only becomes problematic if it impacts the way the joint moves or functions, and people can go their whole lives with no symptoms at all. The most common treatment is standard pain medication, but if the spurs are really impeding movement or the quality of life they may need to be removed surgically. Bone surgery is usually considered to be quite serious, and as such is typically reserved for extreme situations.
Understanding Bone Spurs Generally
Bone spurs, also known as “osteophytes,” are bony projections that form in the body's joints. Although they are not painful in and of themselves, they often create friction for the bones and nerves that surround them. This can lead to pain, most often during joint movement. The three basic types of bone spurs are those near areas affected by arthritis, those near certain tendons or ligaments, and those that occur where trauma has affected a bone or joint. Spurs on the hip can happen for any or all of these reasons.
Why They Happen
Spurs on the hip, as with spurs anywhere, are one of the body’s ways of trying to heal and protect itself. The body tries to heal areas that have been affected by arthritis, and the healing can result in new bone growth on the sides of the existing bone. The ligaments or tendons can also calcify where they attach to the bones next to them, as is often the cases after some sort of trauma or accident.
Many people never even realize they have a hip bone spur, and the growths can sit on the bones for years without symptoms. In these cases they often aren’t ever diagnosed unless a patient gets an X-ray or bone scan for some other purpose. One of the first symptoms people usually notice when the spurs are problematic, though, is pain.
In most cases pain starts out resembling a dull ache that starts in the morning and worsens throughout the day. It typically intensifies after long periods of walking or sitting or after any activity that puts pressure on the area. The hip might feel limp, stiff or tight, and it will often have a decreased range of motion because the bone spur can limit how far the hip can move. Eventually, as the bone spur becomes worse, the pain will be present for the entire day and usually also throughout the night.
Swelling and Numbness
The joint also becomes inflamed in many patients, and additionally it’s common for the knee to feel swollen or numb from time to time, too. The hip and the knee are connected by a series of nerves and muscles, and in many ways the joints work together to facilitate movement. Spurs on hip can sometimes cause a person to subconsciously “correct” their gait to avoid rubbing against the growth, and this can sometimes cause stress and strain further down.
Bone spurs anywhere, including on the hip, aren’t always easy to treat. Most health care providers recommend a series of pain relieving drugs, and may also advise a consultation with a physical therapist. Physical therapy professionals can help patients find ways to move their bodies that cause less pain and avoid creating unnecessary friction.
Surgery is sometimes an option, but usually only when bone spurs are seriously impeding movement or if they are positioned so as to cause potentially permanent nerve damage. Surgical removal usually involves cutting down to the bone, then sawing or filing the calcification off. The procedure is highly invasive and the fix isn’t always permanent, either; in some patients, the spurs will grow back after a year or so. As such, this sort of treatment is usually only recommended if there are no better options.