Bone spur diagnosis requirements

A diagnosis of spinal bone spurs as the underlying cause of neck pain, back pain and other symptoms is typically made by a primary care doctor or spine specialist. Correctly diagnosing any degenerative spine condition, including the formation of osteophytes within the vertebral joints, is absolutely essential in order to determine the cause of a patient’s symptoms and to identify the treatments that offer the best chance of lasting relief.

How spinal osteoarthritis can cause bone spurs

The vertebral joints in the spinal column, like all weight-bearing joints in the body, are prone to becoming arthritic as a person grows older. Over the years, regular wear and tear will take its toll, causing the cartilage that coats the joints to slowly deteriorate until bone-on-bone contact eventually occurs. In addition to causing stiffness, soreness and a marked reduction in range of motion, this friction also can lead to the development of bone spurs in or around the affected joint.

The presence of a bone spur itself is not always problematic. These smooth growths of bone are formed in an attempt to stabilize an arthritic joint and offset a loss of bone density. However, when the bone spur comes into contact with a nerve in the spinal column, a number of painful symptoms may be experienced, leading to the need to visit a doctor.

Diagnosing arthritis and bone spurs

When a patient visits her or his doctor complaining of chronic neck or back pain, muscle weakness, diminished reflexes, limited range of motion and other symptoms that are frequently associated with a bone spur, a number of steps likely will be taken:

  • First, the doctor will review the patient’s medical history and ask questions about the symptoms, overall health and any treatments that may have already been attempted.
  • Once there is a better understanding of the patient’s pain, he or she will conduct a physical examination in order to confirm the bone spur diagnosis and locate the precise region of the spine that is affected.
  • Finally, it is normally recommended that the patient receive an X-ray, MRI or CT scan to confirm the presence of the bone spur and ensure another underlying condition isn’t to blame for symptoms.

Treatment options for bone spurs

Typically, once a bone spur diagnosis has been made, doctors will recommend a series of conservative treatments that are intended to improve mobility, promote spinal health and manage pain. The use of anti-inflammatory medication, regular exercise, stretching techniques and healthy diet may all be recommended. Surgery can become a potential option if weeks or months of conservative treatment does not bring the relief necessary for a good quality of life.

In the event that conservative treatments are unable to provide you with the pain relief you require, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how our minimally invasive spine surgery may be able to help you find relief from neck or back pain.

We are happy to provide a free MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.