How physicians diagnose a bone spur

A bone spur — which can occur along the edge of any bone — is a rounded, bony growth that generally forms on joints and often remains asymptomatic. In fact, many people have bone spurs without knowing it. When they occur in the spine, it is possible for them to put pressure on spinal nerves, which can limit motion and cause painful symptoms.

If you are dealing with symptoms that you think may be related to a bone spur in the spine it is important to see your doctor for a diagnosis and a treatment plan. Learning more about how physicians diagnose a bone spur can help you be a more confident and informed patient when you do make an appointment. This knowledge can help you work together with your doctor to develop a care plan with the best chance of helping you resume a better quality of life.

Physicians perform several tests to locate the cause of symptoms

You should schedule a visit with your primary care physician for neck or back pain that lasts more than a few days or a week at the most. Your doctor can review your medical history and perform physical exams to understand the cause of any symptoms. If the suspected root of the pain, discomfort or numbness is a bone spur, he or she will recommend other steps that can provide a much closer look at the affected area and make a specific diagnosis possible. Some of these options include:

  • Radiographs/X-rays, which allow medical professionals to see the affected bones and compare progress of the condition over time.
  • CT scans (in conjunction with radiographs), which help pinpoint the location of the bone spur by providing a cross-section view of the body.
  • Electro-conductive tests, like EMG and nerve conduction tests, which can help eliminate other nerve compression sources from possible contributing factors.

Treatment options after a bone spur diagnosis

In many cases, symptoms can be managed with a course of conservative treatment options as prescribed by your physician. Commonly recommended steps include taking pain relievers, performing exercises to strengthen the back muscles and epidural steroid injections at the site of the pain. If weeks or months of treatment do not bring an improvement of symptoms and a return to normal activity, surgery may then be recommended.

Surgery is generally seen as a treatment of last resort by physicians because of the highly invasive nature of traditional open spine procedures. The large muscle-tearing incisions required lead to hospitalization followed by a long, difficult recovery time. At Laser Spine Institute, our board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery to decompress nerves affected by bone spurs and other spine conditions. These procedures offer many advantages compared to traditional open spine surgery, including a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication.

For information about bone spur diagnosis, treatment and surgical procedures, contact us today. We offer a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute.