What is a bone spur?

A bone spur, which is known clinically as an osteophyte, is a smooth growth of bone created by the body in response to an injury or a loss in bone mass. While these growths are often associated with chronic pain, a bone spur alone does not cause symptoms. Pain and other symptoms occur when the bone spur comes into contact with other bone, soft tissue or an adjacent nerve. Bone spurs are very common in the spine due to the amount of pressure placed on this region combined with the high number of joints and moving parts it contains.

Bone spur growth

While it’s easy to picture them as sharp, bone spurs are usually relatively smooth and rounded growths. They usually develop in response to increased instability or friction in a joint. In the spine, the cartilage that coats the facet joints gradually wears away over time, eventually resulting in bone-on-bone contact. A bone spur is the body’s natural response to this friction and is created in an effort to maintain stability in the joint.

Bone spur symptoms

A bone spur can cause problems in the spine by taking up space and further narrowing the already tight passages like the spinal canal or nerve root exits. Some of the symptoms most commonly associated with bone spur formation and related nerve compression include:

  • Local pain
  • Pain that radiates along a nerve
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Joint stiffness
  • A feeling of pins and needles in the hands or feet

Bone spur treatment options

Treatment for symptoms caused by a bone spur will often consist of nonsurgical therapies to reduce pain and inflammation, take pressure off the spine and improve range of motion. Specific treatments include anti-inflammatory medication, ice packs, heating pads, posture correction, physical therapy and nerve blocking injections.

However, the growth of osteophytes is permanent and if conservative treatment proves to be ineffective after several weeks or months, contact Laser Spine Institute if you have concerns about highly invasive traditional open spine surgery. Our minimally invasive spine surgery involves a less than 1-inch incision and involves less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional procedures.^

To find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures, our expert team can review your most recent MRI or CT scan at no cost to you.*