Cervical osteophytes — treatment for bone spurs in the upper spine

Cervical osteophytes, or bone spurs, appear in the spinal vertebrae of the cervical (upper) spinal region. An osteophyte is a bony growth that the body sometimes produces in response to a weakened spine and increased friction. However, bone spurs can actually create problems by constricting nerve pathways, including the foramina, which are the open spaces on either side of the vertebrae through which spinal nerves pass.

Cervical osteophytes and osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints. In the spine, osteoarthritis specifically affects the facet joints, which are the hinges that connect adjacent vertebrae and facilitate the spine’s mobility. These joints are covered by cartilage and, with time, the cartilage begins to wear away, causing the vertebrae to rub together. The friction itself can result in aches and stiffness, but when bone spurs form at the site of the arthritic joints, symptoms can be compounded.

Symptoms of cervical osteophytes resulting from osteoarthritis

Nerve compression due to cervical osteophytes can cause the following symptoms:

  • Pain that stays localized in the neck
  • Pain that begins in the neck and travels through the shoulders, arms and hands
  • Tingling in the neck and arms
  • Throbbing, aching or burning pain
  • Crepitus, or the audible sound of bone grinding against bone
  • Spontaneous joint lockage

Treatment for osteoarthritis

Although osteophytes in the spine will not heal themselves, many patients find that conservative treatments allow them to manage their symptoms effectively. Physical therapy, over-the-counter pain medication, mild stretching and massage are often recommended. Additionally, patients can include doctor-recommended medication or spinal injections. If weeks or months of these treatments do not offer sufficient pain relief, surgery for osteophytes could become an option.

How can Laser Spine Institute help?

Many surgeries aimed at treating lumbar, thoracic or cervical osteophytes are traditional open spine procedures. These surgeries are highly invasive and involve hospitalization, muscle trauma and the possibility of nerve damage. However, there are effective alternatives — Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive procedures that target the source of your neck or back pain. Our muscle-sparing techniques allow for an outpatient procedure, which means you can find relief from neck or back pain as quickly as possible and experience a faster recovery than with traditional open spine surgery.^ Contact us today to learn more.

We will be happy to offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.