Spinal bone spurs — overview and treatments

A bone spur, or osteophyte, is a small growth of excess bone that can develop just about anywhere on the skeleton. However, these growths are often seen in joints either as a result of arthritic degeneration or in the aftermath of a traumatic injury. The spine is particularly prone to developing bone spurs because of the amount of stress it endures every day.

If you have been diagnosed with a spinal bone spur as the source of your neck or back pain, an often overlooked part of treatment is educating yourself as a patient. The following guide can help you better understand this condition so you can work more closely with your doctor to find the relief you deserve.

What is a bone spur?

A bone spur is the body’s natural attempt to repair damage to a bone and provide stability. These smooth growths are not painful by themselves, but can cause significant discomfort when they interfere with joint mobility or come in contact with muscles, tendons or nerves. For example, if a bone spur in the spine creates pressure on a nerve root or the spinal cord, symptoms can include pain, muscle weakness and numbness in the extremities. Some patients experience difficulty with fine motor skills and walking.

What causes a bone spur?

Generally speaking, the most common causes of bone spurs can be divided into two categories:

  • The aftermath of an injury. Bone spurs may develop after the body has already healed from an injury. This can be frustrating if a person has spent time recovering from initial injury only to experience new symptoms from bone spur formation. Bone spurs are also frequently seen in sports-related stress injuries, such as joint fractures, rotator cuff issues and spine trauma.
  • Joint degeneration. Over the years, as the cartilage that covers and protects many of the body’s joints naturally begins to deteriorate, bone spurs may develop in response to the friction caused by bone-on-bone contact. This is particularly common in the more flexible cervical (upper) and lumbar (lower) regions of the spinal column where joints are at high risk for the onset of arthritis as a result of aging.

Treatment options

Treatment for a bone spur is often focused mostly on symptom management and lifestyle changes. A bone spur cannot be cured in a traditional sense, but there are many effective treatment options for managing the symptoms of bone spur formation. The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, targeted stretching exercises and other conservative treatments are often suggested by doctors and help a large number of patients comfortably engage in normal activities.

However, in the event bone spurs limit range of motion or cause severe, chronic symptoms despite pursuing conservative treatments for several weeks or months, surgical intervention may be recommended. At Laser Spine Institute we perform minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine procedures.^

Learn more by contacting our caring and dedicated team today. We can help you receive your no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.