Symptoms and diagnosis for a spinal bone spur

A spinal bone spur, sometimes called an osteophyte, is a smooth and bony growth that develops on top of the normal bone. Spinal bone spurs can be caused by a number of factors, including aging, traumatic injury or other spinal conditions, like spinal osteoarthritis. When bones in the spine rub together and wear out, bone spurs develop as the body’s way of trying to endure the additional friction. While they are generally harmless, spinal bone spurs that compress a surrounding nerve root or the spinal cord can cause a number of painful symptoms. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of this debilitating condition and the next steps after receiving a bone spur diagnosis.

Spinal bone spur symptoms

When a spinal bone spur touches a nerve root, symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness may develop. If the compressed nerve root is in the upper (cervical) spine, these symptoms will likely develop in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands. While, a compressed nerve in the lower (lumbar) spine may affect the hips, buttocks, legs and feet. Additionally, when a spinal bone spur compresses the spinal cord, alternative symptoms may develop, including pain and weakness below the area of compression, difficulty walking and a loss of motor skills in the hands.

The diagnosis of a spinal bone spur

Patients who are presenting symptoms consistent with spinal bone spurs should turn to their primary care doctor to begin the path to an accurate diagnosis. Typically, a doctor will begin by becoming familiar with the patient’s symptoms, reviewing their medical history and conducting physical examinations to get a better understanding of the patient’s pain.

When spinal bone spurs are indicated to be a possible cause, more extensive testing may be necessary to arrive at a proper diagnosis. For example, a patient might undergo:

  • A CT scan to provide a cross-sectional view of the body in order to find the exact location of the spinal bone spur
  • An X-ray to get a thorough view of the bones and monitor the bone spur’s progress over time
  • Nerve conduction tests to eliminate the possibility of other nerve compression sites

Spinal bone spur treatment

Once a definitive bone spur diagnosis has been made, there are a variety of treatment options available to manage the patient’s pain and improve their quality of life. Usually, your doctor may recommend conservative treatments, including anti-inflammatories, muscle spasm medications, chiropractic treatments, physical therapy and, in severe cases, steroid injections through a pain management physician.

However, some patients have also found relief through alternative treatment methods, such as yoga, chiropractic care and acupuncture. In the event that conservative and alternative treatment is ineffective in managing spinal bone spur symptoms, your doctor may recommend seeing if you are a candidate for a form of surgical intervention.

One surgical option is the minimally invasive spine surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute. Our board-certified surgeons+ have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain, setting us apart as the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery.

Performed through a less than 1-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques, the procedures offered at Laser Spine Institute provide patients with shorter recovery times and a reduced risk of infection compared to traditional open spine surgery.^

Contact us today and ask for a no-cost MRI review* to learn if our outpatient procedures would be effective in relieving your bone spur symptoms.