Spine bone spurs are a common but misunderstood occurrence as the body ages. While the word “spur” often leads to the imagination of sharp or pointed bone spears digging into a nerve or other tissue, bone spurs, or osteophytes, are actually smooth excess growths that can develop anywhere along the spine. These projections of bone are not actually sharp like spurs, but are round in shape. They generally form around joints and are a result of degenerative conditions.
The Birth of Bone Spurs
When bone is inflamed it responds either by dissolving away or by deposition of additional bone. The occurrence of each depends upon the acidity of the environment at the site of inflammation. Inflammation caused by infection yields increased acidity and bone dissolves. Chronic inflammation does not change acidity, thus it remains normal and boney deposits build. One condition that gives way to chronic inflammation is arthritis. Bone spurs often develop in degenerative arthritis of the spine, also called osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can occur in any of the body’s joints, including the facet joints of the spine, which are the sliding joint connections between vertebrae. In spinal osteoarthritis the cartilage of the articular surface of the joint deteriorates, roughens and wears away. This makes for very painful movement. Ultimately, bone begins to rub against bone, sometimes causing a crunching feeling that is referred to as “crepitus.” Other symptoms include:
- Abnormal stiffness of the joint
- Spontaneous locking of the joint
- Throbbing or tenderness
- Limited range of motion
Root Causes and Symptoms
- As bone spurs, or osteophytes, grow, they enlarge the size of facet joints. Anatomically, facet joints are adjacent to the intervertebral foramen through which spinal nerves travel. As the facet joint increases in size, it may encroach upon the nerve running through these foramina. The result is nerve compression. Compressed nerves become symptomatic nerves. Symptoms may include: Weakness or numbness
- Traveling or localized pain
- A tingling, “pins-and-needles” sensation
Bone spurs are not the core problem; rather, they lead to nerve compression and symptoms of an underlying problem, such as a degenerative spine disease like arthritis. Conservative treatments work well early in the progression of the disease. They may include hot and cold compresses, chiropractic massage, physical therapy, medication, and epidural steroid injections. If you find these therapies to be ineffective and a primary care physician, specialist orthopedist, or rheumatologist may suggest spine surgery. The patient should be made aware of all surgical options.
The experts at Laser Spine Institute (LSI) offer minimally invasive, endoscopic procedures that have helped tens of thousands of people rediscover. We not only want to answer the question of, “What are bone spurs?” but we also want to provide you with a solution. Contact us today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.