What causes a spinal bone spur to develop?

By far, the most common cause of spinal bone spur, or osteophyte, formation is age-related degeneration. Due to ongoing wear and tear, the hardworking spine begins to break down. This inevitable process — which affects other parts of the body as well — is known as osteoarthritis.

While the term bone spur might invoke an image of a sharp, pointed projection, an osteophyte is actually nothing more than a smooth, bony buildup on a weakened bone. This buildup is produced by the body as part of its natural healing response to an injury.

Do bone spurs cause problems?

Osteophytes, which are intended to strengthen damaged bones, are often not painful or otherwise problematic. However, spinal bone spurs often develop in close proximity to the spinal cord and nerve roots. As a bone spur grows, it may become a source of irritation or exert pressure on sensitive nerve tissue, causing a nerve to send pain signals.

In the event that a bone spur presses on a nerve root, it can cause symptoms that are very similar to those produced by a herniated disc. Therefore, an accurate diagnosis is essential to ensure proper treatment. The symptoms to watch for and discuss with a physician include:

  • Neck or back pain
  • Numbness and tingling sensations in the arms or legs
  • Muscle weakness

Bone spur treatment

Bone spurs are generally not treated unless they cause problems. If treatment becomes necessary, a physician may prescribe a short period of rest, ice applications, targeted stretches or anti-inflammatory medications. Additionally, many patients benefit from working with a physical therapist, who can design a well-rounded rehabilitation program to help reduce pain and inflammation, enhance strength and mobility and make it easier to perform daily activities.

In some cases, surgical bone spur treatment may be considered to address very severe symptoms. For instance, the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute perform minimally invasive spine surgery that can pinpoint the location of a painful bone spur and then carefully remove it. Unlike traditional open spine surgery, which typically involves a hospital stay, our minimally invasive procedures are performed in an outpatient setting with no lengthy recovery.^

To learn more about the minimally invasive spinal bone spur surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today. Our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants can help you receive a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.