Parrot’s beak (osteophytosis): is it curable? See treatments

A large portion of the population over the age of 45 suffers from osteophytosis, a condition popularly known as the parrot’s beak – usually causing pain in the spine and limited movement.

Better understand what this disease is, how it is diagnosed and treated, in addition to other important information:

What is a Parrot’s Beak (Osteophytosis)?

Osteophytosis, popularly known as the parrot’s beak, is a condition that is characterized by abnormal bone growth around a joint.

Normally, this bone change appears in the spine, due to the degeneration or dehydration of the intervertebral discs – which act as “shock absorbers” between the bones.

This pathology usually causes pain, due to the inflammation caused by the compression of the nerve endings and tissues. For this reason, it is almost always treated with anti-inflammatory drugs or analgesics, in addition to physical therapy care.

Still, it is worth saying that osteophytes (bone expansion that really looks like a bird’s beak) can be considered a type of defense of the organism, in order to absorb the overload of the joints and “stabilize” the spine.

Following, you will be able to better understand what causes this condition in different regions of the body, as well as its possible treatments and care:

What causes the parrot’s beak?

In general, the parrot’s beak (osteophytosis) is caused by the natural wear and tear of the intervertebral discs – which usually occurs due to advancing age and genetic predisposition. However, it is also common for this condition to appear due to poor posture, physical inactivity or obesity .

Although it usually affects the spine region, the parrot’s beak can manifest itself in any joint of the body.

It occurs as a form of defense of the organism, in an attempt to stabilize a damaged segment. This is because, with the wear of the joint, instability is caused, especially when it occurs in the region of the spine.

Thus, to maintain stability, the body causes bone formation to occur at the joint edges – the so-called osteophytes, which have a shape similar to a bird’s beak.

Understand better what can cause this condition, in different areas of our body:

In column

The column is where, in general, the parrot’s beak usually appears. The problem is unlikely to have a single cause, as it is almost always related to a set of factors that overload the spine – leading to greater wear and tear on the vertebrae.

There is, yet, another main causative factor: dehydration and wear of the intervertebral discs.

Apart from these two issues, osteophytosis can also manifest itself due to bad habits or specific conditions. Check out:

  • Incorrect posture – associated with several spinal problems, such as herniated disc, low back pain, etc .;
  • Genetic factors;
  • Obesity – considering the overload in the joints;
  • Injuries or fractures;
  • Rheumatoid arthritis ;
  • Psoriatic arthritis;
  • Lupus .

In the foot

Osteophytosis does not manifest in the foot region. However, there may be an abnormal growth of the heel bone in this area, causing a change in the lower part (or in the posterior region) of that bone.

Even though similar to the parrot’s beak, this condition is called the heel spur (name of the affected bone).

It is worth mentioning that, similarly to Osteophytosis, this problem is also caused due to issues such as overload, obesity, advancing age, injuries, etc.

On the shoulder

Usually, the parrot’s beak does not appear on the shoulder – with the exception of specific cases, such as in association with injuries or fractures.

However, it is common for people who suffer from osteophytosis in the cervical region to experience pain, tingling or limited movement in their arms, shoulders and neck.

Thus, as in other cases, the patient can undergo drug treatment with medical guidance. But mainly, it is common that you need to undergo physical therapy to decrease symptoms and prevent disease progression.

On the knee

Basically, when a person is said to have a parrot’s beak, it means that the edge of the bones has developed a projection (or abnormal growth).

Therefore, when it affects the knee region, it is no different. Considering that we constantly use the joints in this region, it is common for wear to occur and this causes problems such as osteophytosis.

In general, when the parrot’s beak affects the knee, it is associated with issues such as:

  • Arthrosis – which causes cartilage degeneration, responsible for impact cushioning;
  • Constant (or improper) practice of high impact activities – physical exercises, work that requires effort or weight bearing, etc;
  • Injuries;
  • Fractures;
  • Advance of age.

How are osteophytes formed?

With advancing age, it is common for small changes to occur at the edge of the joints – which tends to affect the elasticity of the joint tissue. In addition, other factors can accelerate or intensify these changes, such as genetics and poor posture.

How cartilage protects the ends of bones, with the degeneration of this tissue. This, among other things, triggers a process of bone rigidity (which causes difficulty in movement) and, consequently, microfractures may appear due to friction between the bony extremities.

The bone tends to regenerate, however, during recovery, excessive healing can occur – causing the bone to grow more than normal.

Thus, it is from this alteration that the osteophyte (bone abnormality that really resembles a parrot’s beak) is formed.

What are the symptoms of the parrot’s beak?

Osteophytosis itself is not the cause of the symptoms – that is, it is not the bone change that causes pain to occur. In fact, this and other common symptoms of the disease are due to inflammatory processes and nerve compression, which usually occurs due to abnormal bone growth.

In addition to local pain, the person may also experience symptoms such as:

  • Feel the pain in the back radiating to the thigh, especially when moving;
  • Tingling sensation in the legs – common when the parrot’s beak develops in the lumbar region (end of the spine, close to the hip);
  • Tingling sensation in the arms – common when the parrot’s beak is located in the cervical (neck region);
  • Decreased muscle strength and / or limited movement.

It is worth mentioning that the symptoms are usually controlled by medication, physical therapy and / or changes in habits.

This is because, if osteophytosis is not treated correctly, it tends to progress and cause major complications: stiffness, difficulty walking, changes in sensitivity, etc.

How is the diagnosis made?

The diagnosis of the parrot’s beak is preferably performed by an orthopedist. At first, it is common for a detailed physical examination to be done in the office itself.

Then, due to the similarity of this condition with other pathologies, laboratory tests can be requested – in order to make the diagnosis even more accurate and rule out other possible diseases.

After that, imaging exams are often requested, which help the professional to correctly diagnose the injury or abnormality. See below which exams are these.

What are the tests to identify the parrot’s beak?

As mentioned, it is quite common for imaging tests to be requested for the diagnosis of the parrot’s beak. Some of them are:

  • X-ray of the spine;
  • Magnetic resonance imaging – from the formation of a magnetic field, this examination allows the analysis of neurological, orthopedic, cardiac diseases, etc;
  • Computed tomography – this exam captures images in high definition, making it possible to detect from minimal changes in bones, tissues, organs and other body structures;
  • Bone scintigraphy – In this exam, a radioactive drug is administered into the patient’s vein, fixating on the bones. It is used to observe any type of bone change.

In general, these exams are simple and quick to do. Most are non-invasive, that is, they do not cause pain. However, some of these procedures (such as MRI and scintigraphy) lack previous medication (administered in the vein) or ingestion of contrast.

It is worth noting that, in addition to being used to identify this condition, it is also common for the patient to need to perform these tests at a certain frequency – which is done in order to measure the progress of the disease.

Parrot’s beak (Osteophytosis) is curable?

No . Considering that the parrot’s beak is characterized by a bone change, there is no way to reverse this change.

Therefore, the treatment of this condition is aimed at relieving symptoms (pain, discomfort, limited movement, etc.). In addition to that they also aim to provide greater quality of life to the person who suffers from this pathology.

It is also worth noting that the correct treatment can prevent or slow the progression of the disease. So that, even if there is no cure, it is very important to seek medical help to take all appropriate care.

Treatment: what is good to relieve pain?

As mentioned, osteophytosis has no cure. Therefore, treatment is indicated for the relief of symptoms, the main one being pain.

The indication for treatment varies according to each case. Therefore, it is essential to seek and correctly follow medical recommendations in order to achieve the necessary effects.

It is also important to keep in mind that when a person has a parrot’s beak, they will need lifelong care. So that each patient is treated according to his / her case and there is no standard procedure.

Thinking about it, check out some of the treatment options that can be prescribed:

Conservative treatment

Conservative treatment is one of the most important, as it is the first guideline for patients with a parrot’s beak. Thus, it can be done in isolation, already bringing pain relief, or accompanying the use of medications or physical therapy, for example.

Included in these treatments are issues such as changes in daily habits – such as correcting posture and including physical activities in the routine. However, in addition to that, procedures that help in the relief of symptoms may also be indicated.

Among these, for example, there is acupuncture or the practice of activities such as yoga, practices that can help to relieve symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life.

Medicines

In general, one of the first treatment resources for those suffering from parrots is medicines to relieve pain , discomfort or other symptoms of this condition.

However, this should always be done with medical guidance, as it is common for anti-inflammatory or analgesic drugs to be indicated in these cases.

Physiotherapy

Among the treatments that aim to work on the physical performance of the patient, physiotherapy is the most common and recommended by specialists. There are several techniques that can be applied to those who suffer from the parrot’s beak:

  • Thermotherapy (change in body tissue temperature);
  • Stretching ;
  • Physiotherapeutic massages;
  • Kinesiotherapy (movement therapy) for strength training, flexibility, coordination and balance.

In this sense, it is worth noting that each person can feel more, or less, pain relief from a specific treatment. This reinforces the need to count on the help of trained professionals.

In addition, pilates can be recommended together or alternated with physiotherapy sessions – always following professional guidance.

Read more: What is Pilates?

Surgery

In more severe cases of parrots, surgery may be recommended. However, this usually occurs only when there are indications of progressive spinal misalignment or, even, when there are signs of neurological disorder.

Therefore, professionals usually start treating this condition with care aimed at reducing symptoms and improving the patient’s quality of life.

This occurs, also, considering the fact that osteophytosis usually occurs due to advancing age – as a natural process.

What is the best medicine to relieve parrot’s beak pain?

In general, for the drug treatment of the parrot’s beak (osteophytosis), the use of anti-inflammatory drugs or analgesics may be prescribed in order to provide relief from pain and discomfort.

Painkillers are drugs that work by blocking painful stimuli before they reach the brain – or by interfering with the way the brain interprets them. Thus, they are used for pain relief.

Anti-inflammatory drugs, on the other hand, have a different action, as the name suggests, acting on inflammation. Better understand how these drugs act in the body and why they can be recommended in the treatment of Osteophytosis:

Anti-inflammatory

Anti-inflammatory drugs are drugs indicated to mitigate the signs and symptoms of an inflammatory process in the body, which is a form of defense of the organism against tissue aggression.

However, in some cases this process is intensified and it is when medicines are needed to contain it – such as anti-inflammatory drugs.

As mentioned, the parrot’s beak is a condition that causes bone modification, from different causes. Then, the pain is caused by the spine’s own stiffness, so that the affected vertebrae put pressure on the nerves and muscles.

This leads to inflammation, generating increased blood flow in the area, infiltration of leukocytes (defense cells) and release of pain-inducing agents.

Therefore, it is common that in the treatment of Osteophytosis, the use of anti-inflammatory drugs is indicated, in order to inhibit the sensation of pain caused by the pressure in the nerve endings of the spine and in the musculature.

In these cases, some remedies used are: Nisulid , Nimesulide , Cimelide and Ketoprofen .

Parrot Beak Surgery solves? When to do it?

Considering the fact that surgery is an invasive and delicate method, it will hardly be the first treatment option in pathologies that affect the spine. It is no different in the case of the parrot’s beak.

In general, professionals usually start treatment with the indication of medications to reduce pain, physiotherapy and other methods that aim to improve the patient’s quality of life and decrease symptoms.

This is also due to the fact that this condition usually occurs due to advancing age – that is, due to a natural process.

Thus, in general, surgical intervention for osteophytosis is only indicated by professionals in specific cases . These can include significant spinal alignment complications, nerve damage or neurological changes.

In such cases, surgical procedures are usually performed that include the use of bone grafts and implants.

Is there home treatment?

There is no home treatment that can really cure the parrot’s beak, considering that there is no way to recover the wear and tear of the intervertebral disc – which causes bone alteration.

However, something that can help is to develop habits that help maintain a correct posture – which can provide relief from pain and control the progress of the disease.

In addition, other daily care can be done at home. Check out:

Compresses

Some patients report feeling pain relief from changes related to temperature. That is, make compresses with hot water or apply ice packs to the painful area, etc.

This varies according to each case, there is no right or wrong way. So, if you suffer from the parrot’s beak, you can try to use this technique to relieve pain according to medical advice.

If you feel greater relief from hot water, for example, you can also take advantage of the bath time to let the water fall especially in the affected region for a few minutes. This can even help to provide greater relaxation and improve sleep.

Stretches and exercises

Including physical exercises in the routine is also essential and can make all the difference for those who suffer with parrot’s beak. However, care must be taken when choosing physical activities in order to perform a safe and adequate practice.

In general, activities without impact are recommended, which do not cause greater wear and tear on the joints.

In the topic below you can check some exercise options that can help improve the quality of life and health of those who suffer from Osteophytosis.

What are the exercises to improve parrot’s beak?

The best way to perform exercises safely is with the assistance of a specialized professional. When a person suffers from a specific injury or condition (such as the parrot’s beak), this help is even more essential.

This is because it is very common for the practice of exercises without professional support to lead to injuries or cause the person not to achieve the expected results.

In general, those who have a parrot’s beak should opt for low-impact exercises that involve the whole body, which helps in the alignment of the posture and reduces muscle overloads.

In this sense, it is worth highlighting some of the options:

  • Water aerobics;
  • Bicycle;
  • Swimming;
  • Stretching;
  • Hiking;
  • Yoga;
  • Pilates.

Remembering that it is essential to consult a doctor in advance. This way, he / she will be able to provide guidance on the appropriate exercises according to the case.

In addition, when practicing physical activities, do not insist if you are in pain or try to try harder than your limit allows. This will help you to really feel the positive effects of exercise, including the effects on your quality of life.

How to sleep properly with parrot’s beak?

It is quite common to wake up with discomfort in the back or in the neck area, especially if the person already suffers from some condition like the parrot’s beak.

Therefore, choosing the correct way to lie down can be essential to have a better quality of life and avoid these discomforts.

In general, experts indicate that the best sleeping position is completely on your side . This is because it is possible to keep the spine more aligned, reducing the chances of pain the next day and, mainly, avoiding future injuries.

In addition, keeping the pillow at shoulder height is also ideal, as it helps to keep the head from tilting too much. If you wish, you can also keep a pillow between your legs, to relax while maintaining alignment.

It is worth mentioning that sleeping on your back or face down is very harmful , as it can cause complications over time for the spine and other regions of the body.

What is the difference between a herniated disc and a parrot’s beak?

The disc herniation is a condition caused by wear on the discs intervertebral, in which part of the disk out of its original position and compresses the nerve endings that come from the column. In contrast, the parrot’s beak (osteophytosis) is characterized by abnormal bone growth between two vertebrae.

It is also worth noting that some experts indicate that one of the causes of osteophytosis is the wear of the intervertebral disc – a factor that is directly associated with cases of herniated discs .

In addition, these two pathologies cause similar symptoms, such as pain in the back and lower back, as well as the limitation of some movements. With this, it can lead the person to also feel pain in the feet, legs, etc.

However, despite their similarity, they are two different diseases. Therefore, with the appearance of symptoms, seek medical assistance in order to carry out the correct diagnosis and treatment.


Even when it is a condition that has no cure, such as the parrot’s beak, it is very important to carry out the correct diagnosis and treatment. Thus, enabling a better quality of life and slowing the progression of the disease.

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