Bone spur symptoms and causes

A bone spur, also called an osteophyte, is a bony growth that occurs along an existing bone. Spinal bone spurs often form when the body attempts to compensate for the instability and weakness caused by osteoarthritis, a condition marked by cartilage deterioration within joints. Osteoarthritis of the spine – the loss of cartilage between the spine’s facet joints — one of the most common precursors to spinal bone spurs.

Specific spinal bone spur causes

Because bone spurs grow in response to the gradual breakdown of cartilage, they are a frequent occurrence with the natural aging process. It is normal for this cartilage, which serves as a cushion between the joints of the spine and other joints in the body, to wear down over time. Consider the role the spine plays in daily life. From sitting, to standing, to turning the head, to bending over to pick something up, the spine supports the body through many movements. It supports most of the body’s weight no matter what position it’s in, and over time, this wears down the joints of the spine.

There are many factors that further contribute to stress and burden on the spine, such as:

  • Being overweight, which forces the spine to bear additional pressure
  • Engaging in high-impact sports or exercise, such as football or running
  • Smoking, which has been shown to accelerate spinal degeneration at the cellular level
  • Having a history of spinal injury, such as a fractured vertebra

In addition to these lifestyle and environmental factors, genetics plays a role in one’s likelihood of developing a spinal bone spur. Individuals with a genetic predisposition to bone spurs may have them from as early as their 40s, whereas most people experience them later in life.

Common bone spur symptoms

Despite the high prevalence of bone spurs, many people are unaware that they have one. Less than half of the people who have a bone spur ever experience any symptoms. For those who do experience them, some symptoms will sound like normal side effects of aging, such as stiffness when moving from one position to another, or instability. Another common symptom of bone spurs is crepitus, a grating or popping sound heard “inside” one’s body.

In addition to spinal bone spur symptoms at the actual site of the bone spur, some symptoms are radiculopathic. These symptoms occur in other parts of the body because of the pressure created by bone spurs on spinal nerves which innervate the rest of the body. Radiculopathic symptoms vary widely from person to person and depend on which nerve is being affected by the bone spur. They can range from headaches, to pain or weakness in the arms and hands, to tingling and numbness in the legs and feet.

With the wide range of symptoms that can be present with a spinal bone spur, it is important to be examined by physician who can appropriately determine the cause of your symptoms. If you’ve spent years searching for bone spur treatment options and think you could be a candidate for Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive outpatient surgery, contact us today.