Spinal bone spur treatment — is surgery necessary?

A spinal bone spur, called an osteophyte, can cause pain, stiffness and inflammation in the neck or back. Bone spurs develop as a response to spinal arthritis in an attempt to stabilize exposed joints that are rubbing against each other. These growths are smooth and aren’t painful by themselves, usually causing symptoms if they put pressure on a nerve in the spine.

If you have been suffering from pain and other symptoms related to a spinal bone spur that are beginning to interfere with your life, finding relief is important. You may be reluctant to consider surgery because of the risks and difficulties involved with traditional open spine procedures. However, it is important to be aware of the full range of options available. In fact, many patients are able to find relief with spinal bone spur treatment without surgery.

Conservative treatments

Upon diagnosis, most physicians will usually recommend an initial course of conservative treatments to relieve symptoms and improve any mobility problems that may be occurring. A few common methods include:

  • Medication. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen can reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Patients with certain cardiovascular or gastrointestinal conditions might need to take over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen instead of NSAIDs. In the event that over-the-counter medications do not relieve the symptoms of a bone spur, a patient might be prescribed a narcotic pain reliever or muscle relaxant.
  • Lifestyle changes. The pain and discomfort caused by a spinal bone spur are sometimes worsened by overall health problems and related lifestyle choices. Being overweight, for example, can place added strain on the spine and contribute to the pressure placed on a spinal nerve root or the spinal cord. Quitting smoking, becoming more physically active and reducing alcohol consumption can positively affect spinal health by increasing the flow of nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood to the spine.
  • Physical therapy. Working with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles and ligaments in the neck and back can give the spine added support, relieving some of the pressure that a bone spur may be putting on a nerve. Physical therapy can also involve techniques other than strength training, such as hot/cold therapy, massage therapy or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

Laser Spine Institute

Surgery for a spinal bone spur is usually considered when weeks or months of conservative treatment do not bring relief necessary for a good quality of life. Traditional open neck or back procedures involve a large muscle-tearing incision which requires hospitalization and a long recovery period.

Laser Spine Institute’s board-certified+ surgeons perform minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures. Our procedures use a small, less than 1-inch incision to address spinal bone spurs and other degenerative spine conditions on an outpatient basis.

Contact the dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute for your no-cost MRI review* to determine if you’re a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.