Guide to bone spur surgery

Spinal bone spurs are described as a disc that has been completely worn out, resulting in large bone protrusions that irritate or pinch nerves in the neck or back. Surgery may be a treatment option for a patient who is experiencing painful symptoms caused by bone spurs, which are also known as osteophytes. These smooth bony deposits can develop often and anywhere in the body as a part of the body’s natural protective response to inflammation and friction. This can be triggered by a number of factors, including strain on the body associated with the natural aging process, disc degeneration, poor posture, arthritis, traumatic injury and joint overuse.

Bone spur surgery is rarely necessary because osteophytes are not harmful. However, spinal bone spurs can potentially become problematic due to the limited amount of space available within the spinal canal. In this confined area, excess bone can easily pinch a sensitive spinal nerve root or the spinal cord itself. This type of neural compression can lead to neck or back pain and other uncomfortable symptoms, such as restricted range of motion as well as numbness, weakness and a tingling sensation in the arms and legs. Read on to learn more about bone spur surgery, including the conservative approaches that may be beneficial in alleviating your painful symptoms.

Conservative alternatives to bone spur surgery

If osteophytes progress to the point that they are causing pain or other problems, a doctor can recommend a number of conservative bone spur treatment options that can be attempted before bone spur surgery is considered. The goal of nonsurgical treatment is not to remove the bone spur itself, but rather to mitigate the associated symptoms. Many patients find symptom relief that is sufficient enough to prevent the need for bone spur surgery through conservative treatments like:

  • Rest. Because certain activities can cause spinal joint inflammation to worsen, a short period of rest between one to three days may be recommended.
  • Weight management. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the daily stress and ongoing wear exerted on the spine, which can help prevent new bone spurs from forming and ease symptoms when they do occur.
  • Physical therapy. Targeted exercises and manual manipulation of the spinal joints can help restore and improve flexibility and strength, correct a patient’s posture and reduce pressure on the compressed neural tissue.
  • Medications. Over-the-counter and prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxers and pain relievers can help reduce inflammation and manage discomfort.
  • Cortisone injections. This powerful combination of anti-inflammatories and short-term numbing medications, which are injected directly into the epidural space of the spine, can provide relatively long-lasting relief once the medication takes effect.

The precise bone spur treatment regimen that is prescribed by a doctor will depend on how a patient’s symptoms respond over time. Developing an optimal plan usually requires a period of trial and error to determine the right approach or combination of approaches. However, through one or more of these conventional measures, many patients are able to successfully manage their discomfort to the point that they can continue to participate in daily activities.

Minimally invasive bone spur surgery

Spinal bone spur surgery is usually recommended only as a last resort for patients who are experiencing chronic or debilitating pain that does not respond adequately to several weeks or months of conservative treatment. In the past, a patient who required bone spur surgery had only one option — a highly invasive open back procedure followed by a lengthy recovery and daunting rehabilitation process.

However, the talented surgeons at Laser Spine Institute have minimally invasive procedures for a variety of degenerative spinal conditions, including bone spurs. As a result, today’s patients can turn with confidence to Laser Spine Institute for minimally invasive bone spur surgery and other procedures. Our approach to surgery offers patients many advantages over traditional open back surgery, including minimal scarring by using muscle-sparing techniques, along with having no lengthy recovery and lower average complication rates compared to traditional procedures. ^

Laser Spine Institute is proud to offer patients minimally invasive decompression procedures available for treating spinal bone spurs and other degenerative neck and back conditions, including:

  • Laminotomy. This type of bone spur surgery can relieve pressure on the spinal cord or a compressed nerve root by removing a portion of a vertebral bone called a lamina. The laminae are thin, bony plates that form the vertebral arch and provide protection for the spinal cord. The surgical decompression of a lamina (or a small portion of it) can increase the space available for neural tissue that is being compressed by a bone spur or herniated disc material and thus alleviates painful pressure.
  • Foraminotomy. This decompression procedure can reduce pressure on a spinal nerve root by widening an intervertebral foramen. The intervertebral foramina are passageways through which nerve roots branch off from the spinal cord to other areas of the body. Bone spurs that develop in or near the foramina can potentially encroach upon this sensitive neural tissue. By surgically enlarging a foramen, a foraminotomy can help alleviate uncomfortable symptoms by allowing a compressed nerve root to pass through the opening without being blocked.
  • Discectomy. While not generally considered a type of bone spur surgery, this minimally invasive procedure can be performed to treat other degenerative spine conditions compressing surrounding nerves by surgically removing displaced disc material that is exerting pressure on a nerve root or the spinal cord. Specifically, a discectomy may be recommended if it is based on a patient’s history, physical examination and imaging results as well as a doctor’s diagnosis of a herniated or bulging disc.
  • Facet thermal ablation. The goal of this procedure is to numb the nerves that carry pain signals directly to a facet joint through a laser so the nerve can’t feel pain. This type of surgery may be recommended for treating a bone spur that has developed within a facet joint, and can also be beneficial to patients with degenerative spine conditions like spinal osteoarthritis, which can cause localized joint pain in the neck and back and eventually lead to bone spur formation. Facet thermal ablation is often performed along with a decompression surgery.

Learn more about Laser Spine Institute’s bone spur surgery

The minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute, including bone spur surgery, are performed in an outpatient environment and are completed using less than 1-inch incisions. All of our procedures have been created to provide patients with safer and effective alternatives to traditional surgery and many of our patients are able to be up and walking a few hours after surgery.^ To learn more about our state-of-the-art bone spur surgery procedures, surgery centers and surgeons, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

At Laser Spine Institute, we have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck or back pain. Let us help you on your journey to wellness by reviewing your no-cost MRI review.* We can determine if you are a potential candidate for our bone spur surgery and provide you with the information you need to make a confident decision about your spine care.