What Are the Most Common Symptoms of a Bone Spur on the Elbow?

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  • Written By: Solomon Branch
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2014
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The most common symptoms of a bone spur on the elbow are pain, locking of the joint, and a loss of motion of the elbow. Bone spurs are most common in patients who are afflicted with osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease of the bone. Many individuals experience no symptoms from a bone spur, unless it reaches a certain size or forms near a tendon or ligament.

Bone spurs, also called osteophytes, are bony overgrowths that form in some joints of the body. They are caused by constant stress to the bone, such as overuse of the elbow, or as a result of disease, such as osteoarthritis or bursitis. Trauma to the elbow can also cause a spur to form.

The most common cause of a bone spur on the elbow is osteoarthritis. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage that protects and surrounds the bone wears away, causing the bones to rub together or stick out. If there is trauma to the bones of the elbow, the healing process may over-compensate and create build-up of calcium, which in turn creates a bone spur.

If there is pain as a result of a spur, it typically means the area of overgrowth is large enough that it places pressure on surrounding tissue, compresses a nerve, or grates against another bone. In addition to pain, there may be swelling, redness, and inflammation. If the bone spur comes loose, it may lodge in the joint and lock the elbow temporarily until it is dislodged again.

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Much of the time, bone spurs are symptomless, especially in their early stages. They are often found only as a result of an X-ray or other test looking for another problem. Bone spurs are typically not treated if that is the case. If there are any symptoms, such as pain, loss of motion, or locking of the joint, then surgery may have to be performed. Cortisone shots and anti-inflammatory drugs will often be given first to see if they reduce any pain or swelling.

The surgery for a bone spur on the elbow is usually a last resort since most symptoms can be managed with medications. In the case of osteoarthritis, or any other disease that can lead to bone spurs, the underlying cause must be addressed so that no additional spurs appear.

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anon925015
Post 4

I do have spurs in both of my elbows. The right affects me the most, mostly at night when I'm asleep (they lock up sometimes). Ii do not take any meds for that, Guess I'm waiting until it really gets unbearable.

pleonasm
Post 3

@KoiwiGal - Actually, I think that's probably why this condition doesn't get diagnosed all that often. If your mother was to get bone spurs in her knee, would she even realize it? Or would she think it was just the osteoarthritis acting up again?

The way it's always been described to me is that the pain feels like having broken glass in your joints all the time. And there is a lot of pain and swelling, which are basically the same symptoms you'd expect from a bone spur.

So I wonder if they maybe just don't realize there is something extra going on, and so never get a real diagnosis.

KoiwiGal
Post 2

@croydon - I guess if someone has osteoarthritis they are going to be extra conscious about all those aches and pains, so they will probably not be slow to go to the doctor about it. At least I hope so, because it's such a painful disease, I hate to think of people who aren't at least trying to manage the pain.

My mother is in the first stages of having it in her knees and she gets pain all up her legs and in her hip because of it.

croydon
Post 1

Even though surgery is considered a last resort, don't think that means you shouldn't get this kind of pain checked out. Bone spurs can be dangerous, if they get to the point where they are interfering with circulation.

My dog had a bone spur, which we didn't know about until he started having real trouble moving around. He must have been in pain for a while, but didn't show it. It was on his spine and in the end we had to get him put down, because his nerves were damaged and he was unable to do some basic things for himself.

That's an extreme example, but I can imagine people getting nerve damage if they have a bone spur in the elbow as well.

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