Any abnormal bone growth that occurs on the surface of a bone is called a bone spur. These are not usually painful on their own, but the pain comes from where the bone spur rubs or presses against nerves and surrounding tissue.
These bone spurs can form on any bone, but are mostly found forming on the bones of the feet, spine and elbow. When a spur forms on the joint of a bone, it is normally due to a degenerating joint disease, such as osteoarthritis.
An elbow spur will usually not present with any pain, but in certain cases, it can cause a lot of pain to the patient. The elbow spur grows very slowly and this is why it commonly does not cause any pain but at times it grows rapidly and unpredictably, and this will cause a lot of pain. In such cases, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the spurs.
Symptoms of Elbow Spur
In most people, elbow spurs will not present any pain by themselves and have no signs or symptoms. However, there are some cases where certain symptoms are experienced based on the severity of the growth. Some of the symptoms that are seen in elbow spurs are:
- Severe pain in the elbow that seems to travel along the length of the arm
- There may be a tingling feeling in the elbow joint and sometimes a feeling of weakness and numbness, especially when the surrounding nerves are pinched by the spur.
- There will be decreased motility of the elbow
- There will be some inability to straighten or bend the elbow.
An elbow spur forms due to a disease or condition that causes the degeneration of the cartilage. Excess bone material forms as the body responds to abnormal pressure in the affected area of the bone. The elbow spur is therefore formed as a part of a reaction to an injury.
Elbow Spur – Treatment
There is a wide range of treatment for elbow spurs; from over-the-counter analgesics to surgery.
An elbow spur will cause swelling in the tissues surrounding the elbow. The swelling leads to friction between the elbow bone spur and the surrounding issue, and this causes pain. Anti-inflammatory medication is used to reduce the inflammation and swelling is the surrounding tissues, and this reduces the rubbing. The reduced friction relieves the pain.
For people who have developed elbow spurs due to arthritis, the prescription of anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-inflammatory steroid injections will help reduce the inflammation, pain and swelling.
The use of ice
The pain that arises from an elbow spur can also be relieved through the use of ice packs to the affected area. The ice reduces the swelling of the swelling, hence reducing the friction and relieves the pain. The ice may also numb the area and help in alleviating the pain.
For those patients whose elbow spur cause persistent pain and also affect the mobility of the joint, the doctor will prescribe arthroscopic surgery. In this procedure, several small cuts are made around the affected elbow joint. The arthroscope, which is a small fibre-optic instrument, is then inserted, allowing the surgeon to see into the elbow joint. Working with this instrument, the surgeon is then able to remove the bone spurs and tissue debris which is causing the pain, or interfering with the motion of the elbow. Arthroscopic surgery of the elbow commonly relieves pain from elbow spurs which are formed as a result of osteoarthritis.
Joint deformities that are found in osteoarthritis patients occur due to bone spurs. The cartilage of the elbow, in this case, wears away, causing the bones of the elbow to overgrow and form abnormally large spurs. This leads to the deformation of the elbow joint, leading to a lot of pain and limitation in the mobility of the joint. People who suffer from sever elbow arthritis and joint deformity will be relieved when they go for elbow joint replacement. The replacement will not only relieve the pain, but will restore full movement of the joint.
Some complications that may arise if an elbow spur is not treated in time
If there is no treatment, some individuals will suffer debilitating effects. The elbow joint will have persistent pain all the time, and this will affect the tendons and nerves around the elbow joint. Any surgery done to remove the sours at this time could lead to the following complications:
- The site may get seriously infected and lead to sepsis
- The wound will not close properly thereby lengthening the healing period
- There may be complications with anaesthetic during surgery
- There may be permanent damage to the nerves
- The bone spurs are most likely to grow back again