Anterior osteophytes overview

Anterior osteophytes are bone spurs that develop on the front, or anterior, of the vertebrae of the spine. Because the cervical spine (neck) is particularly susceptible to the wearing of the joints and discs, the development of anterior osteophytes is very common in this area of the spine. Because the common cause of anterior osteophytes is the natural aging process, this condition affects many adults over the age of 50. It is important to learn about the symptoms of this condition through the following article so you can identify it early and work with your doctor to find a treatment.

Symptoms of anterior osteophytes

The following symptoms are associated with anterior osteophytes:

  • Pain, often intense, that may radiate down the arms and neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nerve or spinal cord compression
  • Decreased circulation in certain blood vessels
  • Difficulty breathing

Causes of anterior osteophytes

For many patients with anterior osteophytes, the gradual breakdown of the spine is to blame. Bone spurs develop when the spine is weakened in one area, such as the facet joints or discs, and the vertebrae no longer have the support or cushion they need to move freely.

The facet joints allow the vertebrae to hinge or pivot, giving the spine motion. To prevent the vertebrae from rubbing together, the facet joints are coated with a layer of cartilage. Over time, this cartilage can wear down due to constant movement or the added pressure of weight gain on the spine.

The same factors can cause the discs in the spine to slowly deteriorate. Weight gain and repetitive motion can squeeze the discs until they bulge or damage, reducing the amount of cushion between the vertebrae. As the layer of cushion around the vertebrae diminishes, whether because of a damaged disc or joint, the vertebrae will begin to rub together. This bone-on-bone contact causes bone spurs to form.

Anterior osteophytes develop on the front side of the vertebrae, largely because the spine’s structure allows the anterior side to compress further than the posterior. The result is that anterior osteophytes tend to be larger and, thereby, are more likely to impact a nerve and cause pain than posterior osteophytes.

Treatment for anterior osteophytes

While nonsurgical treatments are often the first recommendation from doctors to treat anterior osteophytes, not everyone can find relief through these methods. If nonsurgical treatment has not provided you with pain relief after several weeks or months of conservative methods like pain medication or physical therapy, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery.

Our board-certified+ surgeons can treat anterior osteophytes with a minimally invasive decompression surgery by simply removing the bone spur that is touching the nerve. In some cases, stabilization surgery may be recommended to treat a severely damaged disc or joint that needs to be replaced with an artificial disc or bone graft.

Because our procedures are minimally invasive, our patients experience a shorter recovery period and lower risk of complication compared to patients who choose traditional open neck or back surgery.^ Reach out to Laser Spine Institute and find out why we hold a patient satisfaction score of 98.^ Through a free MRI review,* our dedicated team can determine if you are a potential candidate for our procedures.