Identifying bone spur symptoms

There are a number of symptoms that are commonly associated with development of bone spurs in the spine.

While a bone spur in the neck or back does not cause pain by itself, pain and symptoms occur when this excess growth of bone comes into contact with another bone, soft tissue or a nerve within the spinal column. These symptoms are often indicators that there is a condition in the spine that may need medical treatment in order to relieve pain.

If you are experiencing an onset of pain and discomfort in the spine that lasts longer than a few days, you should consult your physician about the cause of your pain and the treatment options available to you.

What is a bone spur?

The name “bone spur” often inspires images of sharp pieces of bone, but in reality these growths are nothing more than small, smooth nubs that form near the facet joints of the spine. Most commonly, the body creates bone spurs as a natural response to bone-on-bone contact or diminished bone mass in an effort to increase stability. In the spine, osteophytes (bone spurs) can be frequently found in or around a vertebral joint that has developed arthritis over time.

The most common symptoms caused by a bone spur are those that are experienced locally, or nearest to the affected joint. Chronic back pain, soreness, stiffness and limited range of motion are particularly common. In the cervical spine in the neck, a bone spur may also cause frequent headaches.

Additionally, when a bone spur compresses a spinal nerve, nerve root or the spinal cord itself, different symptoms may be experienced. Known collectively as radiculopathy, the symptoms associated with the compression of a nerve depend exclusively on the specific nerve affected. The irritation of the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spine (lower back), for example, may lead to symptoms throughout the lower body, while nerve compression in the neck can lead to symptoms in the shoulders and arms. Symptoms can also vary in severity and duration and may range from sharp, chronic pain to muscle weakness or a feeling of numbness or tingling.

Treatment for a bone spur

Typically, when a patient is experiencing bone spur symptoms, a physician will recommend a variety of treatments that are intended to lengthen and stretch the spinal column to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve that is causing the pain. Some of the most commonly recommended treatments include:

  • The use of anti-inflammatories
  • The application of heat or ice
  • Physical therapy
  • Low-impact exercises and/or strength training
  • Stretching techniques

In the event that conservative therapy fails to relieve the pain, spine surgery may be recommended to physically remove the cause of a patient’s nerve compression in order to alleviate the bone spur symptoms.

If you are considering surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute for a review of your MRI or CT scan and to learn whether you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures as an alternative to traditional open spine surgery. We offer minimally invasive decompression surgery that removes a small portion of the bone spur to reduce nerve compression and pain. In some cases, minimally invasive stabilization may be necessary to restore stability and support to the spine.

For more information about the advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today and request a review of your MRI or CT scan.