Parrot beaks: relieving discomfort

Parrot beaks can cause pain and loss of quality of life. The risk increases with age. However, it is possible to relieve the discomfort.

Parrot beaks are the popular name for a degenerative disease called osteophytosis. They are small bony protrusions (osteophytes) that result from abnormal growth of bone tissue around a joint.

These protrusions (or bone spurs) can develop on any bone, but most commonly appear on the following parts of the body:

  • Spine (especially in the cervical and lumbar regions);
  • Shoulders;
  • Hip;
  • Knees;
  • Joints and joints of the hands;
  • The toes or big toe;
  • Heel.

The site parrot beaks are considered as a kind of defense mechanism of our body to absorb the overload of the joints and stabilize the spine.

This disease mainly affects people over the age of 50 and can cause pain and reduced quality of life.

What are parrot beaks?


Parrot beaks can be associated with multiple causes. The main one, however, is a chronic joint disease called osteoarthritis, which damages the cartilage and surrounding tissue.

Joints with arthritis, or damaged joints, are left with little or no cartilage, a tissue that exists between bones and serves to keep them from rubbing against each other, and also to absorb shock.

As the damage caused by osteoarthritis worsens, our bodies try to repair the cartilage. However, in doing so, it ends up forming new bone in the space where the cartilage was. This results in the appearance of bone spurs (kite spurs) in the joints.

This can also occur in the spinal cord, when the cushioning discs between the vertebrae wear out.

The main reason for this is aging (age). Over the years, the risk of parrot beaks increases in the case of :

  • Family history of osteoarthritis and/or osteophytosis;
  • Practice of sports that exert high joint overload;
  • Having suffered a sports accident or injury;
  • Have structural bone problems (for example, scoliosis (link to article on scoliosis);
  • Frequent poor posture;
  • Obesity;
  • Stress;
  • Alcoholism;
  • Smoking;
  • Sedentary lifestyle (usually associated with diabetes)
  • Diets high in carbohydrates, refined sugar, and saturated fat;
  • Lupus;
  • Rheumatic diseases.


Most of the time, parrot beaks are small and do not cause pain. Only 40% of people 60 years of age and older will actually experience symptoms painful enough to require medical intervention.

Pain is a common symptom when they form in the heels, shoulders, knees, hips and/or spine.

Parrot’s beak growths on the spine can be particularly painful, especially when they appear inside a vertebra, as they can come into contact with the spinal cord. When this happens, the risk of inflammation and nerve pain increases.

They can also cause muscle spasms, incontinence, numbness and tingling, depending on where they develop along the spine.


When parrot beaks cause only mild discomfort and/or inflammation, the physician may simply prescribe a painkiller and anti-inflammatory medication.

Sometimes the use of appropriate footwear and special seat cushions is recommended, in an effort to reduce/eliminate symptoms.

Physical therapy is also helpful, especially to strengthen the muscles around the affected joint, including the spine. It also helps to restore full range of motion in some joints and protect against nerve pressure.

In cases where pain is severe or the parrot spur damages nerves, surgery to remove the bone spur may be necessary. Typically, this is performed by a specialized neurosurgeon.

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