Shoulder Bone Spur: Signs You Have It and How to Treat It

Learn common causes of a shoulder bone spur and how to prevent and relieve it, especially with exercises from physical therapists.

Published Date: May 6, 2024
elderly-man-with-shoulder-pain

Shoulder Bone Spur: Signs You Have It and How to Treat It

Learn common causes of a shoulder bone spur and how to prevent and relieve it, especially with exercises from physical therapists.

Published Date: May 6, 2024
elderly-man-with-shoulder-pain

Shoulder Bone Spur: Signs You Have It and How to Treat It

Learn common causes of a shoulder bone spur and how to prevent and relieve it, especially with exercises from physical therapists.

Published Date: May 6, 2024
elderly-man-with-shoulder-pain

Shoulder Bone Spur: Signs You Have It and How to Treat It

Learn common causes of a shoulder bone spur and how to prevent and relieve it, especially with exercises from physical therapists.

Published Date: May 6, 2024
elderly-man-with-shoulder-pain
Table of Contents

Your body’s ability to naturally help you heal after an injury is pretty remarkable. It’s always rebuilding muscle, tissue, even bones for optimal strength and mobility. But when your body overcompensates by creating a little too much extra bone, you may develop something called a bone spur

Bone spurs can happen in any part of the body, and you may not even realize you have one because they often don’t cause any symptoms. “Bone spurs in your shoulder are sometimes more noticeable however because of how much you use your shoulder joint for day-to-day movements,” says Samantha Stewart, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Hinge Health.  

That said, shoulder bone spurs don’t have to hurt or limit your range of motion. With exercise, you can adapt to a bone spur and keep up with your regular activities. 

Read on to learn more about what causes a shoulder bone spur, along with how to manage it — especially with exercises recommended by our Hinge Health physical therapists. 

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Our Hinge Health Experts

Samantha Stewart, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Dr. Stewart is a Hinge Health physical therapist with over 8 years of experience. She is certified in myofascial trigger point therapy.
Jonathan Lee, MD, MBA
Orthopedic Surgeon and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Lee is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and an Associate Medical Director at Hinge Health.
Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Is a Bone Spur?

A bone spur, also known as an osteophyte, is a bony growth that forms on bones, often in response to prolonged pressure, rubbing, or stress. This overgrowth of bone usually occurs on the edges of a bone near a joint and develops gradually over time. 

Bone spurs are more common with age. They are most frequently found in the spine, shoulders, hands, hips, knees, and feet. Bone spurs are often a side effect of other conditions, like osteoarthritis and tendinitis, in which new bone growth can occur in response to increased stress on the bone. 

For most people, bone spurs don’t cause any symptoms. You may only find out you have one when you get an X-ray for another condition. “If a bone spur does cause pain, it may be because of how you’re moving or something else that’s changed recently in your body,” says Dr. Stewart. For example, if you have swelling in your shoulder after a workout, that change could make you feel some irritation from the bone spur.

The good news: “Most people with shoulder bone spurs return to normal functioning without pain,” says Dr. Stewart. And usually all that’s needed are conservative, at-home treatments.

Symptoms of a Shoulder Bone Spur

Most bone spurs don’t cause any symptoms, but if you have a shoulder bone spur that does, you’re likely to experience: 

  • Swelling in the area of the bone spur

  • Pain with certain arm movements

  • Limited range of motion in the shoulder and arm

  • A visible lump near the shoulder joint (if the bone spur is large)

In general, Dr. Stewart notes shoulder bone spur symptoms come on gradually and become more bothersome as time goes on.

Shoulder Bone Spur Causes

Bone spurs develop when your body creates extra bone. This most commonly happens when your bones are impacted as the result of another condition, such as: 

  • Arthritis. If you have osteoarthritis, your body may try to accommodate for the loss of cartilage that accompanies this condition by creating extra bone in that area instead. 

  • An overuse injury. Overuse injuries affecting the shoulder, which can happen from playing sports or performing regular reaching movements, can cause bone spurs, as the body tries to heal from the injury.

  • A traumatic injury. As the body attempts to recover from a traumatic injury like a fall or a car accident, it may produce extra bone in your shoulder. 

While certain factors can increase the risk of developing a bone spur, what’s important is that you still take steps to keep your shoulders healthy and manage any symptoms that arise — especially with exercise.

Treatment Options 

How you manage a shoulder bone spur will depend on what symptoms are most bothersome to you. In most cases, conservative treatments are usually the best option for treating shoulder bone spurs, according to Dr. Stewart. If you have a shoulder bone spur, the following treatments may help reduce pain and restore normal function in the shoulder joint: 

  • Use ice and heat. Ice and heat can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Heat therapy may be particularly beneficial for loosening stiff shoulder muscles and improving blood circulation, while ice therapy can help numb pain and reduce swelling. Either work, so go with whichever option feels best for you.

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be helpful for shoulder pain resulting from a bone spur. It’s important to make sure that you are safely able to take these medications, based on your medical history.

  • Massage. Gently massaging the area around the shoulder bone spur can help reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling by increasing circulation to the area. 

  • Physical therapy. Physical therapy can aid in easing pain that results from a shoulder bone spur, especially if you’re uncomfortable exercising on your own for fear you may cause more pain. A physical therapist (PT) may recommend targeted stretching and strengthening exercises (like the ones below) to improve shoulder joint mobility, reduce inflammation, and alleviate pain. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

Rarely, shoulder bone spurs require a surgical procedure, and Dr. Stewart says the vast majority of symptoms resolve on their own with conservative treatments. 

PT Exercises to Relieve Shoulder Bone Spur Pain

Get 100+ similar exercises for free

  • Cross Arm Stretch
  • Wall Slides
  • Wall Push Ups
  • Bent Over I-Y-T
  • Side Lying Arm Rotation
  • Hand Behind Back Stretch

Exercise, especially movement that focuses on shoulder mobility and strength, is one of the best ways to manage shoulder bone spur pain and restore normal day-to-day function. “With a bone spur, you have something taking up space, and you can adapt to that by ensuring all the muscles around the bone spur are doing their job to help you move,” says Dr. Stewart. “Exercise can help hit the reset button when you have shoulder bone spur pain.” The above exercises recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists are a great place to start. 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

PT Tip: Stay Optimistic

Just because you have a bone spur doesn’t mean you’ll inevitably experience pain or lose function. With PT-recommended strengthening and mobility exercises, like the ones above, you can learn healthy movement patterns that both decrease your pain and maintain normal functioning. “The body is very adaptable,” says Dr. Stewart. “We can work with it to get you back to your normal baseline.” 

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Bone Spur (Osteophyte). (n.d.). University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Retrieved from https://www.upmc.com/services/orthopaedics/conditions-treatments/bone-spurs

  2. Bone Spur. (n.d.). Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Retrieved from https://www.columbiadoctors.org/health-library/condition/bone-spur/

  3. Wong, S. H. J., Chiu, K. Y., & Yan, C. H. (2016). Review Article: Osteophytes. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery, 24(3), 403–410. doi:10.1177/1602400327