Uncovertebral joint osteophytes

Uncovertebral joint osteophytes, or bone spurs, are small bone growths that develop in the cervical spine (neck) due to the natural weakening of the spine over time.

Specifically, these osteophytes develop in the uncovertebral joints — the joints that connect the C3-C7 vertebrae in the neck. As these osteophytes develop, they risk pressing against one of the nerves near the cervical spine, which could result in the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the neck and/or pain in the head, shoulder, arm and hand
  • Muscle weakness or tingling
  • Slower reflexes in the affected arm or hand
  • Pins-and-needles feeling

Being able to identify these symptoms as a degenerative spine condition, such as uncovertebral joint osteophytes, can help you identify when you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause of your condition and the best treatment options for pain relief.

Causes and consequences of uncovertebral joint osteophytes

Over time, the components of the spine begin to wear down and deteriorate. While this can be caused by some unhealthy lifestyles, such as obesity and alcohol abuse, it is most commonly caused by the natural aging of the spine and cannot be avoided.

As the spine weakens, the joints that allow the vertebrae to move and bend slowly wear down, losing the layer of cartilage that protects the joints and vertebrae from bone-on-bone contact. When the layer of cartilage on the joint has diminished, the constant friction of the vertebrae on other bones can become detrimental to the spine’s stability. The body responds to this weakness by growing bony nubs near the joints called osteophytes, or bone spurs.

An uncovertebral joint osteophyte is a bone spur in the neck that has formed near one of the uncovertebral joints. While this condition does not automatically cause symptoms, it can result in pain and discomfort if the bone spur grows and pinches a nearby nerve.

Treatment for uncovertebral joint osteophytes

Conservative treatments, such as pain medication and physical therapy, can manage many cases of nerve compression due to bone spurs. Your physician can help you find the best form of nonsurgical treatment based on your condition and medical history.

If chronic pain persists after several months of conservative treatment, a physician may recommend surgery as an option. Before agreeing to open neck surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute and learn about our safer, effective surgical option to relieve bone spur pain.

Our minimally invasive spine surgery can help reduce the pain caused by uncovertebral joint osteophytes. For many patients, our minimally invasive decompression surgery will suffice to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve. However, if the damage in the spine is more severe than just the bone spur itself, a stabilization surgery may be required to help treat the spine.

Patients who choose minimally invasive surgery at Laser Spine Institute can experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication compared to traditional open neck surgery. This is because our procedures take a less invasive, more precise approach to the spine than traditional surgery.

To find out if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI or CT scan.