What are osteophytes of the lumbar spine?

Suffering through the chronic pain of a spine condition is difficult, and not understanding your diagnosis adds a new level of frustration. For many people diagnosed with a lumbar osteophyte, the first question that rises is, “What is an osteophyte in the lumbar spine?”

An osteophyte in the lumbar spine is a bone spur — a smooth, bony growth on top of normal bone — that has developed in the lower region of the spine. This is classified as a degenerative spine condition, meaning it develops gradually as the spine weakens with age. Over time, the cartilage covering the facet joints (the joints that connect the vertebrae) wear down, the raw joint ends can begin to rub against each other. This constant grinding with every movement can lead to the development of a bone spur on the vertebra or joint.

Spinal bone spur symptoms in the lower (lumbar) back

On its own, a bone spur does not cause any symptoms or pain. However, when a bone spur grows on the spine, there is an increased risk that it will compress a nearby nerve root or the spinal cord itself. If a bone spur in the lumbar (lower) spine pinches a nerve, the following symptoms could develop in the buttocks, saddle area, legs and feet:

  • Pain, local and radiating
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Burning sensations
  • Difficulty walking
  • Sciatica
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control — a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment

Often, these symptoms can be treated through nonsurgical bone spur treatments, though sometimes surgery is necessary. Your physician will help you determine the best treatment options for your needs after you’ve been diagnosed with a lumbar osteophyte.

Treatments for a spinal bone spur

For many patients, treatment for a spinal bone spur begin conservatively. Conservative treatments aim to relieve the symptoms of the condition. This can be accomplished through the following methods:

  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Stretches
  • Low-impact exercises
  • Weight loss, when necessary
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Corticosteroid injections

If weeks or months of conservative treatment are ineffective in relieving your spinal bone spur symptoms, surgery may become an option. At Laser Spine Institute, we understand that spine surgery is an important decision, which is why we offer patients minimally invasive alternatives to traditional open spine surgery. Our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures help treat common conditions, such as a lumbar bone spur, with a lower risk of complication and a shorter recovery time^ than traditional open neck and back surgery.

If you’ve been suffering from the chronic pain of a lumbar bone spur, it’s time to take the next step toward finding relief. Contact Laser Spine institute today and request a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures.