Lumbar osteophytes in the aging population

Lumbar osteophytes are bone spurs that develop in the lumbar spine (lower back). These small nubs usually form around the facet joints or vertebrae of the spine as they weaken with the natural aging process.

For many people over the age of 50, lumbar osteophytes become a common degenerative spine condition. This is especially true for two reasons:

  1. The lumbar spine is responsible for supporting the weight of the body.
  2. The natural aging process weakens the joints and discs in the spine.

As these two factors come together in the lower back, bone spurs and other degenerative spine conditions have a higher chance of forming than in a younger, healthier spine.

Formation of lumbar osteophytes

Lumbar osteophytes or bone spurs often form as the discs or facet joints in the spine break down due to age and constant wear and tear.

The facet joints are responsible for allowing the vertebrae to hinge and move, while the discs cushion and support the vertebrae so they do not impact each other when they bend. Each facet joint is layered with cartilage to further soften the rotation of the vertebrae and prevent any bone-on-bone contact. However, after years of repetitive motion and added pressure from weight gain, the cartilage on the facet joints may begin to deteriorate. Likewise, this pressure can also cause the discs in the spine to become damaged, reducing the cushion for the vertebrae.

When the vertebrae continue to hinge and move without any cushion from the joints or discs, the bone-on-bone contact can cause lumbar osteophytes to form.

Symptoms

Typically, these small nubs near the facet joints do not cause any pain or symptoms. However, as the bone spurs grow, they can compress a nerve in the spine and cause debilitating pain. Symptoms of lumbar osteophytes can include:

  • Chronic lower back pain
  • Compression of the sciatic nerve, leading to sciatica
  • Unexpected muscle weakness
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • In severe cases, incontinence (seek emergency medical attention immediately)

Treatment for lumbar osteophytes

Generally, lumbar osteophytes can be treated with several months of nonsurgical treatments, guided by your doctor or spine care specialist.

If you’re still seeking treatment after you’ve exhausted all nonsurgical options, contact Laser Spine Institute and ask about our minimally invasive spine surgery. Our surgeons are able to treat most cases of lumbar osteophytes through our minimally invasive decompression surgery, though some severe cases may require minimally invasive stabilization procedures. Because of our care, precision and minimally invasive approach to the spine, our surgery is often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open back surgery.

For more information about our procedures and to see if you are a candidate, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI report or CT scan.