A shoulder bone spur is a bony growth that forms on the edge of the bone within the shoulder joint. Also known as an osteophyte, a bone spur may go undiagnosed for years, but upon discovery, treatment may include anti-inflammatory and pain medications, and, in some cases, surgery. Individuals experiencing a limited range of motion, swelling, or discomfort of the shoulder joint should seek medical attention to prevent further damage.
The formation of a bone spur in the shoulder generally results from either the presence of osteoarthritis in the shoulder joint or persistent stress to the joint as associated with repetitive movements. Over time, the cartilage within the joint wears down and calcium builds up along the edges of the bone. Resulting from the body's inability to sufficiently compensate for the loss of cartilage, calcium collection contributes to the formation of compensatory bone known as a bone spur. Bone spurs are considered to be the body's way of reinforcing and protecting worn joints to prevent damage, but they can sometimes cause inflammation, swelling, and pain.
The existence of a bone spur is generally discovered during the administration of an X-ray or other imaging test. The presence of a bone spur may create pain in the joint or limit one’s ability to move the affected joint. Symptoms associated with bone spurs are generally dependent on the location of the calcium collection. Individuals with a shoulder bone spur may experience a limited range of motion of the shoulder and arm, as well as inflammation and swelling affecting the rotator cuff.
The shoulder pain associated with a bone spur does not originate from the spur itself, but the irritation and inflammation the spur causes. The shoulder allows for diverse movement and, with time, the bones, ligaments, and muscles begin to break down and may rub against one another causing irritation of the soft tissues. Due to the shoulder's intricate composition, a bone spur may limit the joint's functionality, causing a compression of the soft tissues within the shoulder joint known as shoulder impingement.
Those who experience swelling and pain in the shoulder should seek medical attention to determine if a shoulder bone spur is the cause of the discomfort. A variety of tests are generally administered to establish a diagnosis of a bone spur. During a physical examination, the physician will generally take a complete medical history and ask the individual a series of questions regarding activities and when the pain and swelling first manifested. Additionally, the physician may move the individual’s arm to determine the origin of the discomfort. To confirm the existence of a suspected shoulder bone spur the individual may undergo a series of tests that include an X-ray, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test of the affected area, and a computerized tomography (CT) scan.
A shoulder bone spur that is not causing discomfort or complications is generally not treated. Those spurs which impair an individual’s range of motion or create extreme discomfort may be treated using medications or surgery. Medications utilized to treat the inflammation and pain associated with shoulder impingement may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, or corticosteroids. In some cases, cortisone injections may also be used to alleviate inflammation and discomfort. Individuals whose pain is accompanied by a limited range of motion or other complication may require surgery to remove the spur and repair the joint to restore normal shoulder function.