Bone Spurs | what they are and how to treat them naturally

Q. What can I do about my painful bone spurs?

A great question! Bone spurs can sure put the "OUCH!" into you plans for a stroll along the water, a quick trip down the grocery aisles or even a trip through the airport.

To answer this, I offer 2 opinion. First, I turn to Dr. Nathan Wei for a little help in explaining what bone spurs are and how they occur.

Understanding Bone Spurs

1. Bone spurs are growths on a bone.

2. Bone spurs are caused by calcium deposits.

The most common site for spurs is the heel, and most commonly occur for the middle-aged, the overweight, arthritis sufferers and tendonitis sufferers. Plus, poorly fitting shoes may contribute to the problem.

According the Dr. Wei, bone spurs generally occur in two situations.

  1. Near a joint with osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. Why? 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."
  2. 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.

Bone spurs form because your body is trying to increase the surface area of your joint to better distribute weight across the joint surface that has been damaged by arthritis or other conditions. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work and bone spurs can become restrictive and painful.

Dr. Wei reveals the bone spurs are caused by repeated trauma to a bone, occuring 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, too, are often areas of arthritis damage and bone spur formation.

The most common, heel spurs, develop as an abnormal growth in your heel bone due to calcium deposits that form when the plantar fascia pulls away from your heel. This stretching of the plantar fascia is usually the result of over-pronation (flat feet), though high arches (pes cavus) can also develop heel spurs.

Hey, Ladies! Women have a significantly higher incidence of heel spurs due to the types of footwear often worn on a regular basis.

Dr. Wei's tips to prevent pain from heel spurs

  • Select well-made, rubber-heeled shoes, these are better for your feet than leather.
  • Choose footwear for comfort, not for looks... some walking shoes can be very comfortable.
  • Add heel cushions to footwear to help relieve pain.
  • 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, as explained by Dr. Wei, is usually made by physical examination by your physician. Other tests used to diagnose arthritis, trauma and bone spur formation include :
  • Electrical tests 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.
  • 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.

Dr. Wei's tips to treat heel spurs

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.

Dr. Wei's Alternative and Herbal Remedies

  • Relieve pain with hot linseed oil packs. Place linseed oil in a pan and heat – DO NOT BOIL. 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 1½ to 2 hours, as needed.
  • Massage the bottoms of your feet with ICE. 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 odour. This is not a cause for concern.
  • Use arnica and chamomile to bathe your 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 your 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 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.
    • 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
  • Rosehip 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.
  • Curcumin. The yellow pigment of turmeric is called curcumin. In some studies it has been reported to be equally as 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.
  • Apply a flaxseed hot pack to relieve the pain.
If the problem fails to improve with diet change or supplementation, 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 problem source.

Thank You, Dr. Wei!

My research shows that there are an incredible number of natural remedies that are anti-inflammatory.

Here's my take on treating bone spurs!

I disagree with Dr. Wei on 2 specific points of treatment :
  1. The amount of calcium suggested. 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 loose stools at that dosage because magnesium is a laxative. Make sure to take what feels comfortable and work up to the higher dosage as your body adjusts to it.
  2. The use of evening primrose oil. Evening primrose oil is a great source of Omega-6, however in my experience, it is a dramatic deficiency in Omega-3 that contributes to inflammation. Fish and Krill oil contains the highest amounts of EPA for anti-inflammatory power. Dosage depends on body size, though a standard amount for pain reduction is between 2000-3000 mg each day (about 1 tbsp). NOTE: If you are blood thinners, be careful as fish oil works in the same way.

Julie's Most Powerful Science-Supported Remedies

Bromelain

Found in pineapple, this proteolytic enzyme is commonly used for sinusitis as an anti-inflammatory and mucolytic (an agent that helps clear your 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.

Cat’s Claw

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. Researchers concluded that cat's claw is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis at a dose of 10 mg/kg of body weight.

Flavonoids

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 of 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 antioxidant Vitamin E at 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 your 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

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 use a low dose with inconclusive results. 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 5g (or more) per day demonstrate the significant anti-platelet, anti-inflammatory activity of ginger.

Glucosamine Sulphate

Glucosamine sulfate (GS) contains anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties. In a study with rabbits with chronic arthritis and atherosclerosis, oral dosing of GS reduced the markers of inflammation in the peripheral blood of the legs, 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.

Omega-3 Oils

If you can only afford one supplement, I suggest you take an Omega-3 (DHA/EPA). 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 inflammatory response, while DHA and EPA favour 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:Omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet at 4 : 1. A.P. Simopoulos’ studies on the ratio between Omega-3s and Omega-6s have made us aware of the benefits of this ratio, showing "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 Omega-3 oils protect against inflammation goes on and on. The bottom line? Get more Omega-3 in your diet!

Proteolytic Enzymes

Inflammation is your 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.

Turmeric

The main active compound in turmeric is a yellow pigment called curcumin. In a study, a 99.5% 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.

Vitamin C

A diet rich in sources of 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.

High blood levels of Vitamin C were associated with a 45% reduced risk of inflammation (with respect to C-reactive protein levels) and a high fruit intake was related to a 25% reduced risk of inflammation.

Vitamin D

Increased inflammation is normally found alongside obesity or chronic diseases. A mounting body of scientific evidence links small decreases in Vitamin D levels to the aggravation of symptoms in those who are already sick with chronic inflammatory conditions.

In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 75% 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. Eating out a fair bit or relying on convenience foods, increases your need to supplement to help combat the nutrient-robbing effect of inflammatory white sugar, white flour and refined cooking oils.
 

 

 

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