Osteophytes in the cervical region of the spine are common in patients who have been diagnosed with degenerative diseases like facet disease, osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease. Osteophytes, also known as bone spurs, are bony projections that your body produces as a way to reinforce a weakened spine. If osteophytes exert pressure on spinal nerve roots in the neck, then pain, numbness and tingling can spread to the shoulders, arms and hands.
Where do osteophytes develop?
Regardless of whether you develop osteophytes in the cervical region of the spine, the thoracic (middle back) region, or the lumbar (lower back) region, the same sites are prone to bone spurs, including:
- Facet joints – these joints connect adjacent vertebrae, and facet disease or osteoarthritis can often cause bone spurs to develop in the joint space. Any spinal nerves that innervate the joint can become painfully compressed.
- Lamina – the lamina forms part of the vertebral arch; since the spinal column houses the spinal cord, the laminae form the “roof” over the spinal cord. Bone spurs commonly form here, causing an overall narrowing of the spinal canal, a condition known as spinal stenosis.
- Edges of vertebrae – on the edges of the vertebrae, just before the intervertebral discs begin, bone spurs sometimes form along this ridge. Osteophytes in this location can press on the intervertebral discs, thereby contributing to the risk of herniated disc or bulging disc, or they can impinge on surrounding spinal nerves.
Treating osteophytes in the cervical region
The neck is an especially sensitive region of the body because it is tasked with supporting the head and it is such a flexible area of the spine. Cervical osteophytes can cause painful symptoms, but the majority of patients can successfully manage their discomfort with mild massage focused on the neck, physical therapy, pain medication or periodic anti-inflammatory injections. If after weeks or months of these treatments you still are experiencing neck pain, your physician could suggest surgery for osteophytes.
Alternative treatments for osteophytes
Traditional surgeries involve risk of infection, lengthy recuperation and hospitalization. If these drawbacks are preventing you from finding lasting pain relief, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures are a welcomed alternative to open spine surgeries.