Bone spurs, or osteophytes, represent abnormal bone growth that can interfere with joint function. Chronic inflammation associated with elbow arthritis, bursitis or tendinitis most commonly causes bone spurs on the elbow. Possible symptoms of elbow bone spurs include joint pain, stiffness, inability to straighten the elbow, a hard lump near the joint, a weak grip and numbness or tingling of the fourth and fifth fingers. Treatment for bone spurs on the elbow ranges from over-the-counter pain relievers to surgery.
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Tendinitis and bursitis of the elbow can cause swelling in these tissues. Swelling leads to friction between the tissues and elbow bone spurs, provoking pain. Anti-inflammatory medication, such as naproxen, ketoprofen, ibuprofen or aspirin can reduce the inflammation and swelling in the tendons or bursae, notes the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Reduced swelling diminishes rubbing against the bone spur, typically leading to pain relief.
In people with elbow bone spurs caused by arthritis, prescription anti-inflammatory drugs or injection of an anti-inflammatory steroid medication into the joint may help reduce inflammation, swelling and pain, reports the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Acute pain flare-ups associated with an elbow bone spur may respond to the application of ice packs to the area. The ice helps reduce swelling, decreasing friction against the bone spur. Ice typically does not help relieve chronic pain associated with an elbow bone spur.
Doctors sometimes recommend arthroscopic surgery for elbow bone spurs that cause persistent pain or loss of joint function. With this procedure, the surgeon makes several small incisions around the elbow joint. A small fiber-optic instrument called an arthroscope allows the surgeon to see the elbow joint. Working through the arthroscope, the surgeon can remove the bone spurs and other tissue debris that may be causing pain and interfering with joint mobility. Arthroscopic surgery of the elbow, or arthroscopic ulnohumeral arthroplasty, is often helpful for patients with painful elbow bone spurs caused by osteoarthritis, reports the medical information website eOrthopod.
Bone spurs are a primary contributor to the joint deformities that occur with osteoarthritis, explains the University of Washington Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. As the cartilage in the joint wears away, the bones near the joint overgrow and form large spurs, deforming the joint and limiting mobility. Among people with severe elbow arthritis and joint deformity, elbow joint replacement may provide the best opportunity for pain relief and restoration of joint function, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.