Bone Spur in Knee

You can have bone spurs in knee joints for years without experiencing any symptoms. But when they do cause symptoms, they can be painful and interfere with the movement of your knee.

Bone spurs are bony growths that can develop anywhere on the bones, but most commonly developed in joints. Contrary to popular belief, bone spurs are not jagged, but rather smooth bumps of extra bone that form when the body attempts to repair itself in response to damage. They can cause symptoms when there is bone on bone contact within the joint on movement.

Symptoms

Bone spurs in knee joints may not cause any symptoms, but as damage to the knee joint worsens, symptoms may include:

  • Knee pain
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion in the knee joint
  • Pain when extending and bending the knee

Symptoms of knee spurs can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of damage in the knee joint.

Causes

Bone spurs are caused by the body trying to repair itself by building extra bone in response to stress and pressure that wears down the cartilage and bone in the joint over time. This wear and tear is a common part of the aging process and the stress placed on our joints over the years, and may also lead to osteoarthritis (OA), which is a degenerative type of arthritis affecting the joints. The knee is one of the joints most often affected by OA.

Risks

There are certain factors that increase your risk of developing bone spurs in the knee. Along with degenerative changes due to aging, other risk factors include:

  • Being overweight, as this increases stress on the knee joints
  • A family history of osteoarthritis
  • Knee injuries and abnormalities, such as fractures and dysplasia
  • Engaging in activities involving repetitive stress on the knees

Diagnosis

In order to determine if your symptoms are being caused by bone spurs in the knee, your doctor will talk you about your symptoms. He or she will want to know:

  • What symptoms you are experiencing
  • How long you’ve been having pain
  • What medical conditions or injuries you may have that affect the knee joints
  • If you have a family history of osteoarthritis
  • Details about your activity levels before and after your symptoms started

The next step in diagnosing knee spurs is a physical examination. During the exam your doctor will:

  • Inspect your knee and leg for signs of injury
  • Feel the knee for bone spurs
  • Bend, extend and rotate your knee to check your range of motion

Diagnostic imaging tests will be required to confirm that you do have bone spurs and rule out other possible causes of your pain. Tests that may be used include:

  • X-rays. 
    X-rays are able to show bone abnormalities, including bone spurs and degenerative changes that may indicate osteoarthritis. X-ray can also rule out other common causes of knee pain, such as fractures.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
    An MRI scan is able to produce detailed 3-D images of your body’s bones and soft tissues. MRI can show cartilage, muscle and tendon damage in detail, as well as bone spurs and other issues that can cause similar symptoms.

Options

Bone spurs don’t need to be treated unless they begin causing symptoms. There are things that you can do to relieve the pain and stiffness of bone spurs in knee joints, including:

  • Losing weight.
    By carrying less weight you decrease the load placed on your knees, which can relieve pain and help slow or prevent joint damage.
  • Pain relievers.
    Over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and other pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, can reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy.
    A physical therapist can recommend exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding your knees, improve flexibility and stability, and increase range of motion. Physical therapy can also reduce knee pain and stiffness.
  • Cortisone injections.
    Cortisone injected directly into the knee joint can provide relief from the pain and inflammation caused by bone spurs in knee joints and osteoarthritis. The relief is usually quick, but temporary, often lasting anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
  • Surgery.
    If your symptoms don’t improve with other treatments, your doctor may recommend surgery. In most cases, knee arthroscopy is the preferred method because it isn’t as invasive as traditional open surgery. Knee arthroscopy can remove bone spurs, as well as repair damaged cartilage and tendons. Surgery also allows the surgeon to remove loose fragments of cartilage and bone that may be floating inside the joints and contributing to your discomfort. If bone spurs are just a small part of a larger problem with the knee, partial or total joint replacement may be recommended.