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What Are the Treatments for a Bone Spur in the Shoulder?

author image Aubrey Bailey
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.
What Are the Treatments for a Bone Spur in the Shoulder?
Woman experiencing shoulder pain Photo Credit: DragonImages/iStock/Getty Images

Bone spurs do not always require treatment, and you may not even know you have them. Sometimes, however, they can injure the rotator cuff tendons that move your shoulder -- causing pain, swelling, inflammation or tears in the tendons. Spurs may develop with arthritis and aging, trauma or repeated overuse of your arm. Treatments for conditions caused by bone spurs include conservative measures, nonsurgical interventions or surgery. Seek medical attention if you lose the ability to move the shoulder or if your pain does not improve within a few days.

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Conservative Management

Green ice pack on table
Green ice pack on table Photo Credit: lucamontevecchi/iStock/Getty Images

Mild shoulder pain caused by bone spurs may be successfully treated at home. If your shoulder pain is due to a recent trauma, cold may be effective for the first 24 to 48 hours after injury. Heat can also be used to increase blood flow to your shoulder and promote healing. This is often effective for bone spurs that have been caused by ongoing conditions such as arthritis. If approved by your doctor, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) may help provide relief.

Activity Modification

Older man reaching up to replace a air-conditioner filter.
Older man reaching up to replace a air-conditioner filter. Photo Credit: BackyardProduction/iStock/Getty Images

Daily activities can increase pain caused by bone spurs, particularly if they require you to reach overhead. If these activities cannot be avoided, you may need to temporarily change the way you do them. For example, by dangling your arm and bending at your waist, you can apply deodorant to your underarm without lifting your arm overhead. Sleeping can also be difficult with a painful shoulder. Lying on the unaffected side with a pillow under the affected arm may decrease pain while you sleep.

Nonsurgical Treatments

Woman having therapeutic ultrasound treatment to shoulder
Woman having therapeutic ultrasound treatment to shoulder Photo Credit: maria_esau/iStock/Getty Images

If conservative treatment fails, your doctor may prescribe oral steroids or inject medication directly into your shoulder joint. You may likewise benefit from physical therapy involving not only pain-relieving interventions such as ultrasound, low-level laser therapy and electrical stimulation, but also exercises to improve shoulder motion and strength. A procedure called prolotherapy -- injection of a substance into the joint to stimulate a repair response -- has been proposed as a complementary therapy for shoulder pain, but there is not yet sufficient scientific evidence to recommend its use for the shoulder.


Woman placing hands on her boyfriend's shoulder
Woman placing hands on her boyfriend's shoulder Photo Credit: Vico Collective/Blend Images/Getty Images

Bone spurs that limit your range of motion or press on nerves may require surgical removal. Tears in the rotator cuff tendons are sometimes repaired when these spurs are removed. Depending on the severity of the damage, surgery may be performed arthroscopically -- using 3 very small incisions -- or it may require a larger incision. In younger people, arthroscopic surgery is typically performed. Physical therapy is prescribed to improve range of motion and strength after surgery.

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