What can increase your chances of developing osteophytes?
Osteophytes (bone spurs) are commonly caused by the natural breakdown of the spine over time. As we age, the components of the spine break down due to years of constant wear and tear. Because each piece of the spine is integral to its overall health, the deterioration of even small components, such as ligaments and joints, can lead to the development of a degenerative spine condition.
For example, the facet joints and spinal ligaments connect the vertebrae and allow them to move and hinge. The facet joints, in particular, are coated with a thin layer of cartilage to protect the vertebrae as they pivot. However, after years of supporting the vertebrae, that thin layer of cartilage may wear down, allowing the vertebrae to rub against each other. This bone-on-bone contact is the primary cause of osteophyte development.
Risk factors for developing osteophytes
Osteophytes often develop with the aging of the spine. There are a few risk factors that are outside of your control, such as:
- Arthritis of the spine
With that being said, you can make small changes in your daily life to avoid the risk factors you can control, such as:
- Poor posture
- Weak core muscles
- Abuse of alcohol and/or tobacco
- Participation in high-impact sports and activities
Understanding these risk factors and causes of osteophyte development can help you postpone or altogether avoid the development of this condition. If you are having difficulty making any of the lifestyle changes mentioned above, talk to your doctor about how you can make healthier choices to improve your overall spine health.
Compressed nerve symptoms
When osteophytes do develop, they require treatment, and the first step to treating a bone spur is to identify the symptoms. Some of the symptoms associated with nerve compression caused by osteophytes include:
- Weakness in the extremities
- Tingling, or a pins-and-needles sensation
- Severe neck or back pain
- Restricted movement
- Radiating arm or leg pain
The area of the body experiencing symptoms depends on the location of the bone spurs, which can occur at any level of the spine but are most common in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) regions. For example, a compressed nerve in the lower back may result in symptoms that spread from the lower back to the legs and feet.
Treating spinal osteophytes
There are several options when it comes to treating an osteophyte. For many patients, the body will heal itself over time, which means conservative treatments can be used to reduce the symptoms while the body heals. These conservative treatments can include maintaining a healthy weight, staying active and making a habit of good posture, especially during extended periods of sitting.
For other patients, the deterioration in the spine may be too advanced for the body to heal itself, and surgical intervention may be necessary. Instead of choosing a highly invasive traditional open back surgery that leads to an increased risk of infection, complications and surgical blood loss, you can choose the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures are safer and effective alternatives to traditional open back surgery.^ Instead of a large incision in the back that detaches the core muscles from the spine, our surgery is performed through a muscle-sparing incision with the use of muscle-sparing techniques.
For patients with osteophytes, our surgeons may recommend a decompression surgery that removes the portion of the osteophyte that is compressing the local nerve and causing your pain. In some cases, a stabilization surgery may be necessary to remove the damaged portion of the spine and replace it with bone grafts. Your surgeon will guide you through what to expect during your surgery depending on the procedure recommended and the severity of your condition.