Osteophyte risk factors

Osteophyte (bone spur) risk factors are most commonly tied to 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 the overall health of the spine, the deterioration of even small components like 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
  • Age
  • Genetics

While you cannot control these osteophyte risk factors, you can make small changes in your daily life to avoid the risk factors you can control, such as:

  • Poor posture
  • Obesity
  • Weak core muscles
  • Abuse of alcohol and/or tobacco
  • High-impact sports and activities

Understanding these risk factors and causes of osteophyte development can help you avoid or postpone the development of this condition altogether. 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

Sometimes the risk factors for osteophytes are unavoidable, and you must treat them when they develop.
The first step to treating a bone spur is to identify the symptoms. Symptoms associated with osteophytes that cause nerve compression include:

  • Weakness in the extremities
  • Numbness
  • 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, complication 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 small incision that moves the muscles aside without disruption. This allows our patients to experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of surgical complication.

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 or artificial discs. Your surgeon will guide you through what to expect during your surgery depending on the procedure recommended and the severity of your condition.

To see if you qualify for one of our minimally invasive procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute and request a review of your MRI report or CT scan.