What are spinal bone spurs and what surgery options are available?
Contrary to the name, spinal bone spurs are typically smooth growths of bone that often occur as a result of bone-on-bone arthritis. When they develop in the spine, it is usually due to the erosion of cartilage lining the facet joints, which allow the spine to bend and twist. As the disc has been worn out completely, the bones begin to grind against each other, creating bone protrusions (bone spurs).
Spinal bone spurs can often place pressure on nearby nerve roots and the spinal cord. This causes symptoms including neck or back pain, numbness, weakness and tingling sensations in the arms and legs. Patients who are considering spinal bone spur surgery have usually spent several weeks or months trying various nonsurgical treatments to address their symptoms without much success. In the following article, you will learn about whether surgery is the right option for you to find relief from this condition.
Who should consider spinal bone spur surgery?
Spinal bone spur surgery is typically considered a last resort for people who have already tried conservative treatments, including taking anti-inflammatories or muscle spasm medications, getting regular chiropractic or acupuncture treatments, receiving physical therapy or receiving injections through a pain management physician.
Potential candidates for spinal bone spur surgery are people who are experiencing symptoms so severe that they can no longer tolerate the pain or go about their normal daily routines, including going to work and performing household tasks.
Treatment options for spinal bone spurs
The main approaches to spinal bone spur surgery include making more room for a nerve that a spur is placing pressure on, by removing the offending bone spurs that are pinching the nerves or spinal cord. Commonly used procedures include:
- Foraminotomy. The widening of the holes between the spinal bones through which nerve roots run from the spinal cord to the rest of the body, potentially eliminating the pressure placed on a pinched nerve.
- Laminectomy. The removal of the entire “roof” of a vertebra, giving the spinal cord, nerve roots and ligaments enough space to exit the spinal canal.
- Laminotomy. The removal of part of the “roof” of a vertebra, to give compressed nerves more space while minimizing the amount of bone removed.
Although the general idea might be the same, each spinal bone spur procedure varies depending on where it is performed and how it is completed. There are two categories of spinal bone spur surgery available, including traditional open spine surgery and minimally invasive surgery. At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive options are safer and effective outpatient alternatives to the more invasive, traditional open neck and back procedures.^