Learn more about spinal bone spurs

Spinal bone spurs are fairly common but sometimes misunderstood. The word spur may bring images of sharp or pointed projections digging into a nerve or other tissue. Yet bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, are typically fairly smooth growths of bone that can develop anywhere on the skeleton, including the spine. In many cases, they form around joints and are often a result of degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis.

How do bone spurs form?

Bone spurs are the body’s natural stabilizing response to increased friction on the surface of the bone, such as a joint, or at the point where a tendon or ligament attaches. One of the most common causes of this friction is osteoarthritis, which is inflammation of joints caused by the natural breakdown of cartilage.

Osteoarthritis can occur in any of the body’s joints, including the facet joints of the spine, which are the sliding joint connections between vertebrae. With spinal osteoarthritis, the cartilage on the surface of the joint breaks down, roughens and wears away. This dissolving makes for painful movement. Ultimately, bone begins to rub against bone, sometimes causing a crunching feeling that is referred to as crepitus. Other symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Abnormal stiffness of the joint
  • Throbbing or tenderness
  • Limited range of motion
  • Spontaneous locking of the joint

What are the root causes and symptoms?

As bone spurs grow, they enlarge the size of facet joints. The facet joints are next to the small openings that allow nerve roots to exit the spinal column, which are called foramina. Bone spurs can compress the nerves running through these foramina and cause the following symptoms:

  • Weakness or numbness
  • Traveling or localized pain
  • A tingling, pins-and-needles sensation

What treatments are recommended for bone spurs?

Conservative treatments are generally recommended when a bone spur is diagnosed as the underlying cause of symptoms. Methods may include hot and cold compresses, chiropractic massage, physical therapy, medication and epidural steroid injections. It’s always important to consult with your doctor before starting any treatment. If you find these therapies to be ineffective in managing your pain and other symptoms, your doctor may suggest spine surgery. Before submitting to a highly invasive traditional open spine surgery, however, you should explore the surgical options available to you.

As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, Laser Spine Institute offers a range of both minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures that have helped more than 75,000 people find relief from neck and back pain since 2005. Our outpatient procedures can help you find relief from your bone spurs without the lengthy recovery associated with traditional open back surgery.^

Contact us today for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.