Are bone spurs in the spine considered a disability?

A spinal bone spur, or osteophyte, is a bony deposit produced naturally by the body as a way to help stabilize a weakened facet joint. Despite what its name might suggest, a bone spur is smooth and rounded rather than sharp and pointy, and it is not necessarily a disability — or even painful. Usually, problems arise only if the excess bone encroaches on the spinal canal and compresses a nearby spinal nerve. Because the spinal canal houses the spinal cord and a series of sensitive nerve roots within a very tight space, bone spurs can lead to spinal nerve compression.

That said, a spinal bone spur is not considered to be a disability in and of itself. Rather, it is the associated spinal nerve compression (if any) that could potentially make it difficult to work and perform other activities.

How can spinal nerve compression become disabling?

A bone spur that forms on a spinal vertebra or facet joint can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • Neck or back pain
  • Arm or leg muscle weakness
  • Numbness and tingling sensations
  • Reflex loss
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Difficulty walking

The symptoms of spinal nerve compression can vary considerably depending on the location of the affected nerve, the amount of pressure created by the bone spur and other factors. Some people experience only minor discomfort, while others are stricken with severe and disabling pain. For instance, if a compressed spinal nerve produces symptoms that make it difficult to walk or move, it may become impossible to maintain gainful employment.

How can disabling spinal nerve compression be addressed?

If you’ve been diagnosed with a bone spur that is causing disabling nerve compression, you are encouraged to contact Laser Spine Institute to explore your surgical treatment options. Our team can help by providing a free MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^