How to recognize bone spur symptoms

There are a number of symptoms that are commonly associated with the development of osteophytes (bone spurs) in the spine. While a bone spur in the neck or back does not cause pain by itself, 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 to ease pain and discomfort.

If you are experiencing an onset of bone spur symptoms in the spine that lasts longer than a few days, you should consult your doctor about the cause of your pain and the treatment options available to you. To learn more about these bony protrusions in the spine as well as methods that may be able to provide you with the lasting relief you have been searching for, read the following article.

What is a bone spur?

The term “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, bone spurs can be frequently found in or around a vertebral joint that has developed arthritis over time.

The most common bone spur symptoms are those that are experienced locally or closest to the affected joint. Chronic back pain, soreness, stiffness and limited range of motion are particularly common. In the cervical (neck) region of the spine, a bone spur may also cause frequent headaches. Additionally, when a bone spur compresses a nerve root or spinal cord, different symptoms may be experienced.

Known collectively as radiculopathy, 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. Bone spur symptoms can also vary in severity and duration and may range from 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 doctor will recommend a variety of treatments that are intended to lengthen and stretch the spinal column to relieve pressure on the compressed nerve that is causing the pain. Some of the most commonly recommended treatments include:

  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Hot and cold therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Low-impact exercises
  • Strength training
  • Stretching techniques

In the event that conservative therapy fails to relieve your bone spur symptoms after several weeks or months, spine surgery may be recommended to physically remove the cause of a patient’s nerve compression. If you are considering surgery, reach out to Laser Spine Institute for a free MRI review* and to learn whether you may be a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive outpatient procedures.

Our board-certified+ surgeons perform 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 the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today. We can help guide you on your journey to wellness.