I was recently asked, "What can be done about nasty bone spurs?"
Here is a great article that explains in detail what bone spurs are. At the bottom, I will discuss what are the top remedies for treatment and provide studies that support their benefit.
Herbal remedies for bone spurs
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR (www.arthritis-treatment-and-relief.com/herbal-remedies-bone-spurs.html)
Bone spurs are growths on a bone. A bone spur is caused by calcium deposits.
The most common site for these is the heel. Most people who have heel disorders are middle aged or overweight. Heel spurs are also common in people who have arthritis and tendonitis. Poorly fitting shoes may contribute to the problem.
Bone spurs occur in two situations. One type arises near a joint with osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. Here, the cartilage has been worn through and the bone responds by growing extra bone at the margins of the joint surface. These "spurs" are called "osteophytes."
The second type of bone spur is the kind that occurs when the attachment of ligaments or tendons to bone become calcified. These can occur on the bottom part of the heel, around the Achilles tendon, and in the coracoacromial ligament of the shoulder.
The calcaneus (heel bone) is the largest bone in the foot and absorbs most of the shock and pressure of weight-bearing. A heel spur develops as an abnormal growth on the bottom of the heel bone. The plantar fascia is a broad band of fibrous tissue located along the bottom surface of the foot that runs from the heel to the forefoot. Calcium deposits form when the plantar fascia pulls away from the heel area, causing a heel spur to develop. Heel spurs can cause extreme pain in the foot, especially with standing or walking.
Bone spurs, or osteophytes, are bony projections that form along joints, and are often seen in arthritis. Bone spurs cause limitation in joint motion and can cause pain. Bone spurs can occur in any joint but are often seen in the shoulders, back, knees, and hips.
The reason for bone spur formation is that the body is trying to increase the surface area of the joint to better distribute weight across a joint surface that has been damaged by arthritis or other conditions.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work and the bone spur can become restrictive and painful.
Spinal arthritis or osteoarthritis of the facet joints is a common problem associated with bone spurs. This condition is a cause of back pain in the older patient population (over 55 or 60). It can cause stiffness and lower back pain that is usually worse in the morning, gets better after moving around, then gets worse again at the end of the day.
The most common root cause of neck and low back arthritis is repetitive trauma to the spine from recreational or work related excessive strains. Patients may typically develop symptoms in their mid 40s to early 50s. Men are more likely to develop arthritic related symptoms earlier in life.
Enlargement of the bone due to spur formation can sometimes lead to narrowing of the spinal canal and result in spinal stenosis. This condition can cause nerve pinching, leading to pain down the legs that is worse when the patient stands and walks, and is better with sitting.
Back pain or neck pain is very common as osteoarthritis leads to inflammation involving the facet joints. Secondarily, the neck and back muscles become irritated. Patients usually complain of:
• Dull pain in the neck or lower back when they stand or walk.
• Radiating pain into the shoulders (often including headaches) if the cervical spine is affected, and buttocks and thigh if the lumbar spine is affected.
• Symptoms worsening with activity and often improving with rest. Lumbar arthritis symptoms often improve when an individual is bending forward and flexing at the waist, such as leaning over a shopping cart or over a cane.
As the nerves become compressed, patients complain of several symptoms including:
• Pain in one or both arms or legs.
• Numbness or tingling.
• Progressive weakness.
If the arthritic processes and stenosis is severe, progressive bowel and bladder dysfunction occurs.
Symptoms described above can also be caused by other medical conditions such as diabetes, poor blood circulation to the arms and legs, spinal tumors, fractures, and spinal infections. Many of the symptoms are similar to generalized arthritis, rheumatism, back strain and muscle fatigue, as well as acute disc ruptures with nerve compression.
Heel spurs develop as an abnormal growth in the heel bone due to calcium deposits that form when the plantar fascia pulls away from the heel. This stretching of the plantar fascia is usually the result of over-pronation (flat feet), but people with unusually high arches (pes cavus) can also develop heel spurs. Women have a significantly higher incidence of heel spurs due to the types of footwear often worn on a regular basis.
Bone spurs are caused by repeated trauma to a bone. Bone spurs occur in the back (spinal region commonly in the neck (cervical) or lower back (lumbar) regions, in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands. The hips and knees are often areas of arthritis damage and bone spur formation.
Tips on preventing heel pain due to spurs:
• Select well-made, rubber-heeled shoes, these are better for the feet than leather.
Choose footwear for comfort, not for looks. Some jogging shoes can be very comfortable. Adding heel cushions to footwear helps to relieve pain.
br> • Avoid walking on hard surfaces such as concrete, wood, or hard floors without carpeting.
• If you walk or jog for exercise, try bicycling or swimming instead.
Diagnosis is usually made by physical examination by your physician. Other tests used to diagnose arthritis, trauma, and bone spur formation include:
• Electrical tests are commonly performed to document the degree and severity of spinal nerve injury. The EMG and nerve conduction test (EMG/NCV) tests will exclude peripheral nerve compression such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
• Radiographs begin with an x-ray of the spine or other body area to determine the extent of arthritic changes and bone spur formation. With these films the physician may determine if destructive changes are present or further radiographic images are indicated.
• Computerized tomography (CT scans) with myelography and/or MRI scans can provide details about change in the spinal architecture and the degree of nervous system compression. With these films the clinician will correlate clinical symptoms with radiographic findings and recommend the corrective course of action, often seeking the consultation of the spine surgeon.
The key for the proper treatment of heel spurs is determining what is causing the excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. When the cause is over-pronation (flat feet), an orthotic with rear-foot posting and longitudinal arch support is an effective device to reduce the over-pronation, and allow the condition to heal.
Other common treatments include stretching exercises, losing weight, wearing shoes that have a cushioned heel that absorbs shock, and elevating the heel with the use of a heel cradle, heel cup, or orthotic. Heel cradles and heel cups provide extra comfort and cushion to the heel, and reduce the amount of shock and shear forces experienced from everyday activities.
While some heel spurs are painless, others that cause pain may require medical treatment or surgical removal. Some physicians use cortisone injections to temporarily relieve pain. It is best not to have a heel spur surgically removed unless it is extremely irritating or painful. If the problem persists, consult your rheumatologist.
Alternative and Herbal remedies:
• To relieve pain, use hot linseed oil packs. Place linseed oil in a pan and heat but do not boil it. Dip a piece of cheesecloth or other white cotton material into the oil until the cloth is saturated. Apply the cloth to the affected area and cover it with a piece of plastic that is larger in size than the cotton cloth. Place a heating pad over the plastic and use it to keep the pack warm. Keep the pack in place for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, as needed.
• Ice massages on the bottoms of the feet can be helpful. Alternate between hot and cold foot baths.
• Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), applied topically to the affected area, is good for relief of acute symptoms. Note: Only DMSO from a health food store should be used. Commercial-grade DMSO found in hardware stores is not suitable for healing purposes. Using DMSO may result in a temporary garlicky body odor. This is not a cause for concern.
• Use arnica and chamomile to bathe the foot (or other joint). You can also wrap the herbs in a cloth and apply it to the affected area as a poultice.
Bone spurs can be prevented and effectively treated with calcium and magnesium supplements. A proper balance of these nutrients prevents abnormal calcium deposits from forming. The digestive enzyme betaine HCI helps the body absorb these nutrients.
Natural anti-inflammatory supplements which may be of help are whole leaf, cold processed aloe vera juice, glucosamine sulfate, shark cartilage, bromelain, evening primrose oil, and kelp.
In more difficult cases, intramuscular injections of B complex vitamins, especially vitamin B12, and magnesium sulfate are worth trying, or oral vitamin C pushed to bowel tolerance doses.
Other Herbal Remedies:
• Rose hip and horsetail tea help to heal and rebuild tissue. Add 1 tsp. of herbs to 1 cup of boiling water, steep for ten minutes, strain and drink 1 cup three times daily.
• The yellow pigment of turmeric is called curcumin. In some studies it has been reported to be equally effective as cortisone without any of the associated side-effects. The usual effective dose of curcumin is 500-1,000 mg three times daily on an empty stomach for about six weeks.
• Alternating hot and cold foot baths are helpful.
• Apply a flax seed hot pack to relieve the pain.
• If the problem fails to improve with diet change or supplementation, one should also consider the possibility of food allergy, digestive enzyme insufficiencies, especially hydrochloric acid, and assimilation problems. A nutritional doctor or naturopath can order a comprehensive digestive and stool analysis, food allergy tests, or other tests for nutritional status to find the source of the problem.
How much to take:
• Calcium, 1,200 mg
• Magnesium, 600 mg
• Glucosamine sulfate, 500 mg daily
• Bromelain, 2 capsules between meals
• Evening primrose oil, 500 mg
• Kelp, 1 tsp. daily
• Vitamin C, to bowel tolerance
My research shows that there are an incredible number of natural remedies that are anti-inflammatory.
Two things I would disagree with about Nathan's article is the amount of calcium he suggests and using evening primrose oil. It is my experience that when the body is laying down calcium in inappropriate places, it is important to take equal amounts of magnesium with Vitamin C to assist in preventing abnormal calcium deposits. Instead of 1200 mg calcium and 600 mg magnesium, try 800 mg of each. You may experience lose stools at that dosage because magnesium is a laxative. Make sure to take what feels comfortable and work upto the dosage higher as you get used to it.
On the oil front, evening primrose oil is a great source of Omega 6 but in my experience, it is a dramatic deficiency in Omega 3 that is contributing to inflammation. Fish and Krill oil contains the highest amounts of EPA that has anti-inflammatory power. Dosage depends on body size but a standard amount for pain reduction is between 2000-3000 mg a day (about a tablespoon of body fish oil). NOTE: If you are blood thinners, be careful as fish oil works in the same way.
Here are some of the most powerful remedies that have scientific research to support their benifit:
Found in pineapple, this proteolytic enzyme has commonly been used in sinusitis as an anti-inflammatory and mucolytic (an agent that helps clear the airways). According to In Vivo, a 2005 German clinical study found that children with inflammation of the sinuses exhibited statistically significant faster symptom recovery when given bromelain compared to usual sinusitis treatment.
In a recent study in Peru, 30 out of 45 people with inflammatory osteoarthritis were given freeze-dried cat’s claw for four weeks. Knee pain associated with physical activity and medical and patient assessment symptom scores were all significantly reduced, with benefits occurring in the first week of cat’s claw therapy. The researchers concluded that cat's claw is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis at a dose of 10 mg/kg body weight.
Flavonoids are found in red wine, purple grapes and a variety of deep, dark fruits such as blueberries, blackberries and plums. Researchers revealed in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology that a study with a dog, monkey and human proved that 5 mL/kg body weight of flavonoid-rich red wine or 5-10 mL/kg of purple grape juice inhibits platelet activity and protects against the fight-or-flight response of platelets called epinephrine activation.
Consuming flavonoids from purple grape juice also enhances protection against LDL cholesterol oxidation, even though all of the study’s participants were taking another antioxidant vitamin E, 400 IU/day. From this research, it seems reasonable to suggest that moderate amounts of flavonoid-rich foods like red wine or purple grape juice be among the 5 to 7 daily servings of fruits and vegetables per day, as recommended by the American Heart Association, to help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Ginger, a common kitchen spice, has the potential to treat many aspects of heart disease, especially the inflammatory aspect. A 2007 review in the International Journal of Cardiology suggests that ginger shows considerable anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-platelet, hypotensive and hypolipidemic effects in human and animal studies. Human trials have been few and generally used a low dose with inconclusive results. But one 2002 study found that a low dose of ginger (50 mg/kg) caused significant changes in the blood markers of inflammation. However, higher doses of 5 g or more per day demonstrate the significant anti-platelet, anti-inflammatory activity of ginger.
Glucosamine sulfate contains anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties. In a study with rabbits with chronic arthritis and atherosclerosis, oral dosing of this supplement reduced the markers of inflammation in the peripheral blood of the legs and arms, as well as the femoral and synovial membrane lesions. Glucosamine sulfate also prevented the development of inflammation-associated aortic lesions in the heart. This group of rabbits received 500 mg of glucosamine sulfate per kilogram body weight a day, verifies the journal Heart and Circulatory Physiology.
If you can only afford one supplement, I suggest you take an omega-3 (DHA/EPA). As discussed in Chapter 8, the omega-6 fatty acid arachadonic acid (AA or ARA) and the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA have differing influences on inflammation. Arachadonic acid tends to yield metabolites that amplify the inflamma¬tory response, while DHA and EPA favor the fight against inflammation.
Recognizing the importance of omega-3 fats, the World Health Organization researched and devised a recommendation for the optimum ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet: 4 to 1. Also outlined in Chapter 8, A.P. Simopoulos’ studies on the ratio between omega-3s and omega-6s have made us aware of the benefits of this ratio. Simopoulos findings showed “a ratio of 2.5 to 1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer…The lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk. A ratio of 2/1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.”
The list of research on how the famous omega-3 oils protect against inflammation goes on and on. The bottom line: get more omega-3 in your diet!
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, however, it can hinder the healing process. Since the 1950s, scientists have known that proteolytic or protein-breaking enzymes reduce inflammation by neutralizing the byproducts of inflammation, specifically to the levels at which synthesis, repair and the regeneration of injured tissues can take place.
In one study, football players with ankle injuries found that proteolytic enzyme supplements accelerated healing; this got the players back on the field 50 percent faster than athletes who received placebo tablets. Other medical trials, including those featured in the journals Injury and Journal of Medicine, have shown that supplemental proteolytic enzymes can help reduce inflammation, speed the healing of bruises and other tissue injuries (including fractures) and reduce overall recovery time.
More recently, studies from the Archives of Surgery, Anaesthesist and Aesthetic Plastic Surgery have shown reduced swelling, bruising and stiffness (typical signs of inflammation) in patients recovering from facial and various reconstructive surgeries when treated with proteolytic enzymes.
The main active compound in turmeric is a yellow pigment called curcumin. In a recent study, a 99.5 percent curcumin preparation was administered to five people with ulcerative proctitis and five others with Crohn’s disease. Three women and two men with ulcerative proctitis were given 550 mg of curcumin twice a day for a month, then three times a day for another month. All five had significant improvements in symptoms. Two people were able to stop taking drugs for their digestive symptoms while two more reduced the dose of their medications while taking curcumin.
A diet rich in sources of the bioflavonoid vitamin C could cut the level of markers for inflammation by 45 percent, according to a new cross-sectional study, published in the March 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
This study looked at 3,258 men aged between 60 and 69, with no history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Blood levels of vitamin C, fruit intake and dietary vitamin C intake were significantly and inversely associated with mean concentrations of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation and blood vessel dysfunction, explained lead author S. Goya Wannamethee.
High blood levels of vitamin C were associated with a 45 percent reduced risk of inflammation (with respect to C-reactive protein levels) and a high fruit intake was related to a 25 percent reduced risk of inflammation.
Increased inflammation is normally found in people with obesity or chronic diseases. A mounting body of scientific evidence links small decreases in vitamin D levels to the aggravation of symptoms in people who are already sick with chronic inflammatory conditions.
In a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 75 percent of North Americans do not get enough vitamin D. Researchers have found that the deficiency may negatively impact immune function and cardiovascular health and increase cancer risk.
In July 2008, Dr. Catherine Peterson, a University of Missouri nutritional sciences researcher, found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with inflammation in healthy women. Peterson’s study noted that the inflammation marker serum TNF-α was abundant in women with low vitamin D levels. This piece of information may help understand vitamin D’s position in handling and averting inflammatory diseases.
I hope this inspires you to try some of these powerful natural options. If you eat out a far bit or rely on convenience foods, you will need to supplement to help combat the nutrient robbing effect of white sugar/flour and refined cooking oils that are inflammatory (canola oil used for frying).
Recently I injured my food and out of all the remedies I tried, I noticed the most dramatic results by taking enzymes on an empty stomach. Dosage will vary depending on body weight.
If you have gotten this far in this epic blog post, you are a trooper!
This information is from my upcoming book and online course, "Meals That Heal Inflammation"... More coming soon!