Bone spurs or osteophytes

Bone spurs, also called osteophytes, are small nubs of bone that develop when the vertebrae of the spine rub together.

In a healthy spine, the vertebrae are cushioned by discs that allow the vertebrae to pivot and bend without impacting each other. Additionally, the facet joints that allow the vertebrae to hinge are covered with a lining of cartilage to protect the vertebrae from rubbing together. All of these components are in place to keep the vertebrae from contacting each other. Therefore, when one of these things wears down over time, such as a disc becomes damaged or the cartilage lining deteriorates, the vertebrae start to collide and form bone spurs.

Causes and symptoms of bone spurs

Bone spurs (osteophytes) typically form over time as the spine begins to age. They can develop as the discs lose their elasticity and height, or as the cartilage on the joints wears down after years of repetitive motions. Regardless of the cause, most bone spurs produce no symptoms. In fact, many people have bone spurs and are never aware of their condition.

However, if a bone spur expands out and touches a nerve root or the spinal cord, the following symptoms can occur:

  • Pain
  • Tingling or pins-and-needles sensation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Limited mobility

These symptoms can remain locally at the spine or travel the length of the nerve pathway into the arms or legs.

Treatment for bone spurs

Symptoms associated with osteophytes normally respond well to conservative treatments such as pain medication, physical therapy, behavior modification and other nonoperative methods. These treatments can be recommended after a physical and imaging test with your physician to diagnose the cause of your pain.

Typically, conservative treatment takes several months before any lasting pain relief is experienced. After several months of treatment, if you have not noticed a decrease in your pain, you should contact Laser Spine Institute and ask about our minimally invasive spine surgery. Our procedures offer a safer and effective approach to spine surgery and allow our patients to experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication than traditional open back surgery.

For more information about the spine surgery we use to treat bone spurs and osteophytes, contact us today and request a review of your MRI or CT scan.