Degenerative disc disease and bone spurs — are these spinal conditions related?

Many patients are diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and bone spurs at the same time. Is this merely a coincidence, or are the two spinal conditions related? In most cases, bone spurs develop as a direct result of degenerative disc disease, which is the gradual deterioration of the spinal discs that separate adjacent, articulating vertebrae and act as the spine’s shock absorbers. As the discs break down occurs as part of the natural aging process, spinal stability is compromised.

The body sometimes produces bone spurs (also known as osteophytes) to restore or reinforce spinal stability. While in theory bone spurs might seem like a good thing, they often cause more harm than good. Read on to learn more about the correlation between bone spurs and degenerative disc disease as well as the treatments available for these debilitating conditions.

Bone spurs and neural compression

When the body produces a bone spur in an effort to stabilize the spine from degenerative disc disease, neural compression can occur if the bone spur invades a foramen between two spinal vertebrae where a spinal nerve root branches off the spinal cord. Neural compression can cause not only localized pain but also radiating pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness in the upper or lower extremities.

When a spinal nerve root in the cervical spine is compressed, symptoms can occur in the head, neck, upper back, shoulders, arms or hands. When neural compression occurs in the lumbar spine, discomfort can be felt in the lower back, hips, buttocks, legs or feet.

Conservative treatments for bone spurs caused by degenerative disc disease

Treatment of bone spurs caused by degenerative disc disease typically begins with nonsurgical modalities to relieve the patient’s symptoms. Common conservative treatment methods include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
  • Applying cold compresses to the neck or back
  • Lifestyle changes, such as managing your weight or quitting smoking

If nonsurgical treatment fails to relieve a patient’s symptoms after several weeks or months, the patient might be advised to undergo an operation to decompress the affected spinal nerve root.

Surgical treatments for bone spurs caused by degenerative disc disease

If you have been diagnosed with bone spurs as a result of degenerative disc disease and your doctor has recommended spine surgery, consider the outpatient procedures offered at Laser Spine Institute. Contact us to learn about our procedures that have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck or back pain.

The surgeons at Laser Spine Institute use a less than 1-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques in order to alleviate symptoms associated with bone spurs and degenerative disc disease. Our procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery,^ as they result in less pain, bleeding and a lower risk of complication.

To find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, reach out to Laser Spine Institute today and ask for your no-cost MRI review.* We are here to help guide you through your journey to wellness.