Understanding disc osteophyte complex

Disc osteophyte complex occurs when more than one spinal vertebra or intervertebral disc is affected by osteophytes, which are more commonly referred to as bone spurs. When your spine begins to weaken, either due to aging, degenerative diseases, obesity, improper use or overexertion, your body tries to produce extra nodules of bone (this is the osteoblastic, or “bone growth,” process), both to reinforce the structural integrity of the spine and to limit the spine’s mobility. Many individuals develop bone spurs and never experience pain. However, if the bone spurs interfere with neural activity, as is often the case with disc osteophyte complex, a variety of uncomfortable symptoms can occur.

Neural compression and osteophytes

Surrounding the spinal cord is a protective column made of vertebrae. A spongy, cartilaginous disc separates adjacent vertebrae. Intervertebral discs serve the following functions:

  • Protection
  • Shock absorption
  • Flexion
  • Ligamental, connective purposes

When disc osteophyte complex develops and a series of bone spurs form on multiple vertebrae, the space surrounding the intervertebral discs becomes compressed, and there is a danger of the osteophytes in the spine exerting pressure on the nerve roots or the spinal cord. It is this neural compression that causes symptoms like localized pain, pain that radiates to the extremities, tingling, numbness or a pins-and-needles sensation.

Treating osteophytes

For patients who experience painful symptoms due to disc osteophyte complex, a regimen of conservative, non-surgical treatment, such as physical therapy, analgesics (pain medication) or anti-inflammatory drugs, is generally enough to manage the discomfort. In severe cases, or if symptoms become chronic (lasting three months or longer), your physician may recommend surgery. Traditionally, surgery for osteophytes has involved hospitalization and lengthy recovery periods.

Alternative treatments for osteophytes

If you would like to explore alternatives to traditional, open spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our orthopedic surgeons can perform minimally invasive, outpatient procedures to help you find relief from neck and back pain.