Marginal osteophytes are small protrusions of bone that develop around the periphery of joints in the body and can be a frequent source of pain – particularly when accompanied by osteoarthritis. Commonly experienced as a result of natural spine degeneration, these offshoots of bone form as a natural healing mechanism. Also known as bone spurs, marginal osteophytes often develop in the vertebral joints (facet joints) and cause neck and back pain when they come into contact with a nerve, soft tissue or another bone.
The facet joints in the spine are the location where adjacent vertebrae connect. Nearly all of the vertebrae in the spine have two sets of facet joints: one set facing upward and one downward. These hinge-like joints allow for spine articulation while ensuring stability. However, over the years, the cartilage that coats the joint surfaces slowly begins to deteriorate because of regular wear and tear. As a result, the exposed bones naturally develop marginal osteophytes to combat the degeneration. In most cases, a person doesn’t even know this is occurring, but in the event that a bone spur grows into contact with other tissues, pain can follow.
In general, neck and back pain from marginal osteophytes in a vertebral joint is either local or neuropathic. This means posterior osteophytes may cause neck or back pain at the site of the bone spur, or they can cause a number of other symptoms that trace back to nerve compression – known as radiculopathy. These symptoms may include:
- Traveling pain along the compressed nerve
- Unexpected muscle weakness
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- Diminished reflexes or motor skills
- Sciatic pain
If you are experiencing neck or back pain, visit your physician to determine whether marginal osteophytes or another form of spine degeneration is at fault. In the event that you’re unable to manage your pain with conservative treatments over several weeks, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about your other options, including one of our minimally invasive outpatient spine procedures.