If you wonder what that stabbing pain is in your heel, it may be a bone spur.

Bone spur is a general term used to describe a knobby, abnormal bone growth. Bone spurs are also known as osteophytes. Scientists believe bone spurs happen because of osteoarthritis or when the body tries to heal itself after a trauma by replacing bone. The growth is usually small and often unnoticed.

Although bone spurs can form on any bone, they usually happen on joints where 2 bones come together, or where ligaments or tendons attach to bones. Areas that tend to develop bone spurs are the neck, shoulders, elbows, spine, hips, knees and heels. Spurs are not painful, but they can cause pain if they rub on a nerve or other tissue.

Older adults are more prone to developing bone spurs. Spurs can also happen in young athletes or dancers because of the added stress on their muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Pain may happen while the spur is forming, but can settle down. In some cases, pain may continue and get in the way of physical activity.

These are reasons to see your healthcare provider about a bone spur:

  • You discover an abnormal growth.
  • You experience pain associated with the growth.
  • You experience pain or weakness at a joint.
  • You have difficulty walking because of pain in the knees or heel.

Your healthcare provider may prescribe rest, anti-inflammatory medicines or physical therapy if the spur is creating problems for you. These noninvasive treatments usually are effective in treating the bone spur.

In rare instances, surgery may be recommended if the spur and resulting inflammation are creating serious physical problems like prohibiting walking, and the spur is not responding to other forms of treatment.

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