Surgery for osteophytes — when and if you should consider it

Surgery for osteophytes is usually seen as a last resort due to the highly invasive nature of most procedures. In fact, many people diagnosed with a pinched nerve caused by a spinal osteophyte, or bone spur, are able to find relief with conservative treatment. Common doctor-prescribed nonsurgical treatments include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, massage, heating pads and ice packs.

Surgery should not be considered until conservative treatment options have been exhausted without a meaningful improvement in symptoms. If you are dealing with chronic neck or back pain related to a bone spur and are wondering when to consider surgery, learning as much as possible about this condition and the full range of treatment options is important. This information can help you work with your doctor to answer this question and make the decision that can return you to a full, active lifestyle.

What are osteophytes?

Osteophytes in the spine are extra growths of bone that your body produces when your spine begins to weaken due to aging or a degenerative disease. Bone spurs are a normal part of aging that develop to provide stability from increased joint friction and usually only produce symptoms if they interfere with spinal nerves. However, when symptoms do occur they can be extremely debilitating, making even the simplest tasks difficult to complete.

Specific symptoms of nerve compression caused by an osteophyte include:

  • Decreased mobility
  • Localized neck or back pain
  • Shooting pain to the extremities
  • Tingling, numbness and weakness, both locally or in the upper or lower extremities
  • Crepitus, or the sensation of bone grinding against bone

Considering surgery for osteophytes

If several months of conservative treatment do not prove effective, your physician might suggest surgery as an option. The goal of spine surgery for an osteophyte is to decompress the nerve passageways in the spine by removing the excess bone growth that has developed. A traditional open spine procedure requires a large muscle-tearing incision to access the spine, which means overnight hospitalization followed by a long, sometimes painful, recovery period.

Minimally invasive surgery for osteophytes

Laser Spine Institute offers an alternative to the risks and lengthy recovery periods of traditional surgery. We perform minimally invasive spine surgery that reaches the site of nerve compression with a less than 1-inch incision. This results in an outpatient procedure with less risk of complications such as infection and failed back surgery syndrome.

Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute.