Cervical osteophytes — overview and treatment

Cervical osteophytes are bone spurs that form in the cervical (upper) region of the spine. An osteophyte is an outgrowth of bone produced as a natural response to increased joint friction, often caused by arthritis. Cervical osteophytes are not painful themselves but can narrow the spine and put pressure on spinal nerves which can lead to painful, debilitating symptoms.

If you or someone you know is being affected by cervical osteophytes, learning about the underlying causes and the full range of treatment options available can be a great first step in getting the help you need. This knowledge can help you work with a doctor to develop a plan with the best chance of a return to a comfortable, active lifestyle.

Cervical osteophytes and osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints. In the spine, osteoarthritis specifically affects the facet joints, which are the hinges that connect adjacent vertebrae and allow movement. These joints are covered by cartilage which can wear away with time, causing the vertebrae to rub together. This friction alone can be painful, but it can also cause the formation of bone spurs as a response to increased joint instability.

Symptoms of cervical osteophytes resulting from osteoarthritis

Neural compression due to cervical osteophytes can cause the following symptoms:

  • Local neck pain and stiffness
  • Shooting, burning pain in the shoulders, arms and hands
  • Tingling and numbness locally and in the extremities
  • Throbbing or aching
  • Joint stiffness and catching

Treatment for osteoarthritis

Although spinal bone spurs are not reversible, there are effective options to manage any related symptoms. Many doctors will initially prescribe treatment like physical therapy, over-the-counter pain medication, mild stretching and massage. Epidural steroid injections and prescription drugs may be recommended in more severe cases. If weeks or months of these treatments do not offer sufficient pain relief, nerve decompression surgery may become an option.

How can Laser Spine Institute help?

Many surgeries to treat spinal osteoarthritis or lumbar, thoracic or cervical osteophytes are full open spine procedures. These surgeries are highly invasive and involve muscle trauma, hospitalization and a long, often painful, recovery. However, there are alternatives — Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that uses a muscle-sparing incision and leads to a shorter recovery time for our patients.^

For more information, contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for one of our procedures.