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Do you have pain in your shoulder, neck, or upper back?

Do you have a history of osteoarthritis?

Then you might be suffering from bone spurs.

Bone spurs in general, are bony projections that occur when your bones meet each other. When they occur in the shoulder, they can cause significant shoulder, back, arm, and neck pain.

Bone spurs in the shoulder are also called osteophytes and one of their main causes is osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis. Bone spurs can also occur as the result of tendonitis or as the result of inflammation to the cartilage or tendons in the shoulder due to injuries or other conditions.

This occurs if you have an injury to your shoulder joint or the associated tendons. Your body may start to form extra bone as a way to protect the damaged area – which can actually turn into painful bone spurs in the shoulder.


bone spurs in shoulder surgery recovery time

What Is A Bone Spur?

To put it simply, a bone spur is a small pointed or sharp bony growth on normal bone that is referred to as an osteophyte by medical professionals.

They may be caused by injuries, various types of arthritis, or they may be congenital (in which case they are called osteochondromas).

If you have a family history of bone spurs or similar issues, be sure to let your doctor know if you’re visiting for shoulder, neck, or back pain related problems.

Bone spurs are often smooth and may not cause any discomfort, and you might not even know if you have them unless they are pressing or rubbing on nearby soft tissues or bones.

If a bone spur in your shoulder is pressing on your ligaments, tendons, or nerves, it can be particularly painful and require treatment from an orthopaedic surgeon.

Man holding shoulder in pain

What Causes Bone Spurs in The Shoulder?

Bone spurs are the result of inflammation in the shoulder area, which is often caused by degenerative arthritis (also referred to as osteoarthritis), tendonitis, or inflammation that results from other conditions, along with injuries to your shoulder’s cartilage or tendons.

The inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative arthritis, or osteoarthritis and other injuries to the shoulder ligaments, tendons, or other soft tissues can result in extra bone deposits in the area around the injury or inflammation.

This can lead to a prominent bony growth or bone spur. Injuries that cause damage to the shoulder area or rotator cuff can also lead to the development of bone spurs in the shoulder area, since soft tissues will be pressing or rubbing against the bones.

This in turn, causes the bone deposits that lead to the pointy growths of bone or bone spurs in the shoulder – and while they are meant to protect your shoulder[AP1] (? Incomplete Sentence)

Man holding back of neck in pain

Shoulder Bone Spurs Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of bone spurs in the shoulder include soreness, tingling or numbness, tenderness, weakness, swelling, and even tearing of the tendons or ligaments.

If you think you have bone spurs in your shoulder or are experiencing similar symptoms as the ones described, then you should see an orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible.

Bone spurs are often diagnosed via X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, or ultrasounds for related symptoms like pain, swelling, or difficulty moving your shoulder or arm.

If your orthopaedic surgeon suspects you have arthritis in your shoulder area, they will likely order imaging tests outlined previously, to properly diagnose the issue with your shoulder.

Diagnosing bone spurs in the shoulder can be complicated, since they are generally part of a larger problem like arthritis or damage to the shoulder joint from an acute or repetitive use injury.

However, once shoulder bone spurs are diagnosed, there are a variety of treatment options that range from physical therapy and customized exercise programs, to surgery to remove bone spurs in the shoulder.

When bone spurs in the shoulder are diagnosed, physical therapy and customized exercise programs for bone spurs are often recommended, with surgery being a last resort option.

If your shoulder bone spurs are severe and the pain and inflammation is making it difficult for you to perform everyday tasks, then you should potentially consider consultation for surgery, as removal can help alleviate the pain.

Woman testing her shoulder and elbow with doctor

Non-Surgical Treatments for Bone Spurs in The Shoulder

Surgery for bone spurs in the shoulder or elsewhere might not be required. There are a variety of non-surgical options including exercise programs, physical therapy, and more ways to deal with shoulder bone spurs.
Often, shoulder bone spurs can be treated by routines of icing, stretching the joints, and using over the counter painkillers or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS).

A physical therapist can help reduce pain in the shoulder with deep tissue massage or ultrasound treatments as well, and they may assign you a regimen of exercises that will help reduce the pain associated with bone spurs in your shoulder.

Treatments for bone spurs in the shoulder are focused on reducing pain and inflammation in the shoulder area, as well as avoiding injury whenever possible.

Fixing bone spurs in the shoulder without surgery is fairly common, and often surgery is only recommended if your bone spur and that pain, severely affects your quality of life.

Fixing Bone Spurs in The Shoulder with Surgery

If bone spurs in your shoulder are consistently painful and impact the quality of your life, and are not responding to physical therapy or other non-surgical treatments, then you should talk to your orthopaedic surgeon about your options for surgery for bone spurs in your shoulder.

Surgery for bone spurs in your shoulder – referred to as a subacromial decompression- can involve shaving or resurfacing the bones in your shoulder.

Removing the pointed growths or bone spurs, along with the thickened areas of your ligaments causing the pain will ease the pressure on your rotator cuff tendons and nerves.

Surgery for bone spurs in the shoulder can also involve replacing the shoulder joint – a shoulder arthroplasty – if the damage is extensive. In which case you should definitely see an orthopaedic surgeon who has performed this procedure regularly and understands the unique intricacies of rebuilding a damaged shoulder.

Bone spurs in the shoulder recovery time is relatively short, but you should be prepared to spend several days or longer recuperating, and you will not be able to lift the arm that was operated upon for a while, plan for this if you are having – or just contemplating – surgery for bone spurs in your shoulder.

Most patients who have surgery for bone spurs in their shoulder or shoulders go on to have normal function in their arm, resume their normal activities, and have a proper quality of life.

Can Bone Spurs in The Shoulder Go Away Without Surgery?

Keep in mind that bone spurs don’t always require extensive surgery or treatment if the pain they are causing you doesn’t interfere with day to day activities or compromises your quality of life.

That said, bone spurs in your shoulder or other parts of your body are permanent deposits and they will never completely go away, although they do have the potential to heal through reabsorption.

Also, not all shoulder bone spurs are painful or require surgical or significant medical intervention. It is possible that physical therapy, shoulder rehabilitation exercises, and treating the joint can help – but you should definitely work with your doctor (ideally an orthopaedic surgeon) to determine the best solution for you. Your doctor will help devise a plan if you have bone spurs in the shoulder, or any other shoulder, upper arm, or neck problem.

Man at gym holding shoulder in pain

Bone Spur Pain Exercises

So, what do you do if you have bone spurs in your shoulder but the issue isn’t serious enough to require surgery?

Physical therapy for the bone spurs in your shoulder (along with other treatments like deep tissue massages, regular icing and NSAID medications) will likely be the recommended route to help manage pain.

In fact, if you have bone spurs in your shoulder, your physical therapist will likely advise you to start doing specific exercises that will help ease your pain and reduce the inflammation.

If you have bone spurs in your shoulder, you should be aware that overuse of the shoulder joint can actually make things worse. You should not begin an exercise program before consulting a doctor, and their associated physical therapists who have experience with patients that have shoulder joint issues.

If you think that you have bone spurs in your shoulder (especially if you’ve had a history of arthritis or similar conditions, or major injuries to your shoulder in the past) – then you may have bone spurs in the shoulder and you should get your shoulder area checked out by an experienced orthopaedic surgeon. The Orthopaedic surgeon will know what to look for when it comes to bone spurs in the shoulder or similar shoulder problems.

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