Marginal osteophytes in the spine

An osteophyte is a growth of bone (also called a bone spur) that develops in the spine when the vertebrae rub together. A marginal osteophyte is a small version of this type of bone spur.

A marginal osteophyte is a very common condition, especially as the spine naturally weakens over time and the facet joints that cushion the vertebrae begin to lose their protective cartilage lining. While many people may develop this condition, few will ever recognize the small growth on their spine. That is because, unless the osteophyte touches a nearby nerve, there is often no pain or symptoms experienced with this condition. However, if the marginal osteophyte touches a local nerve, chronic and debilitating pain may develop.

If you are suffering from the pain and symptoms of this condition, understanding how these marginal osteophytes develop may help you decide the best treatment option for you.

Facet joints and marginal osteophytes

The facet joints in the spine are the hinging point for the vertebrae, allowing them to pivot and give the spine movement. To prevent the vertebrae from colliding with each other while they move, the facet joints have a layer of cartilage protecting the vertebrae.

Over time, with constant movement and rubbing, the layer of cartilage wears down, leaving the vertebrae exposed to bone-on-bone contact. As the vertebrae rub against each other, small osteophytes can develop. These bone spurs grow near the facet joints as the body’s attempt to stabilize the spine when the facet joints wear down.

Pain and symptoms of marginal osteophytes

Pain and symptoms of a marginal osteophyte can occur in the spine and travel to the nearby extremities, depending on the severity of the nerve compression. Remember, these symptoms only occur if the bone spur touches a nerve near the spine.

The most common symptoms of marginal osteophytes in the spine include:

  • Pain at the location of the bone spur and/or the nearby extremity
  • Unexpected muscle weakness
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Diminished reflexes or motor skills

Pain that travels to the extremity can be difficult to understand. What that means is pain from a pinched nerve can travel the entire nerve pathway, which leads from the spine into the closest arm or leg. For example, a pinched nerve in the neck or shoulder area may result in pain that stretches from the neck to the head, shoulder, arm and/or hand, depending on how much the nerve is compressed.

Treatment for marginal osteophytes in the spine

If you are experiencing neck or back pain, visit your physician to determine whether marginal osteophytes or another form of spine degeneration is the cause. Your physician will most likely have you begin a series of conservative treatments to relieve your symptoms, including:

  • Physical therapy
  • Pain medication
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Yoga and stretches
  • Massage therapy

These treatments often provide relief within a few months. However, if you are still suffering from pain and symptoms, contact Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer, more effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. Our minimally invasive decompression surgery works to treat marginal osteophytes by removing the pressure on the pinched nerve that is causing your pain. If a seriously damaged disc is the cause of the bone spur, a stabilization surgery may be needed to replace the disc with an artificial one to stabilize the spine.

Our patients consistently report a 97 percent patient satisfaction score^ and a 98 percent patient recommendation rate. Contact us today to find out what sets us apart as the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery.