What to expect from a spinal bone spur

A bone spur, also called an osteophyte, can occur in many areas of the body, but most spurs are seen in joints that constantly bear weight, such as those in the spine. Spurs are rounded growths that can arise out of bone-on-bone contact, and aren’t typically symptomatic. In fact, many people have no idea that they have bone spurs. However, a bone spur can cause trouble when it comes into contact with other elements of the body — in the spine, those elements may include the spinal cord and the nerve roots that branch from it. Pinching these bundles of nerves can cause localized pain and discomfort near the bone spur itself, but it can also contribute to a condition known as radiculopathy, which can produce symptoms anywhere along the affected nerve.

Cervical spine bone spurs

The cervical portion of the spine extends from the base of the skull down the neck. When a bone spur affects a vertebra in this area, it can pinch neighboring nerves and cause problems like pain and stiffness of the neck, as well as headaches. Depending on the specific spine level where the nerve impingement occurs, it may also lead to pain and discomfort in other areas of the body, such as the shoulders, arms and hands.

In rarer cases, the bone spur places pressure directly upon the spinal cord, causing cervical myelopathy. This condition can cause nerve problems and muscle weakness in any area of the body below the level of impingement. That means that although a spur may be located in the neck, it may cause symptoms like weakness of the legs and difficulty walking.

Thoracic spine bone spurs

The central portion of the spine, which is connected to the ribcage, is called the thoracic spine. If a bone spur occurs in a vertebra in this area, it can lead to an achy upper back, as well as symptoms that radiate to other areas innervated by the affected nerve roots. That could mean weakness, numbness, pain and other symptoms that manifest throughout the torso or legs.

Lumbar spine bone spurs

The lower back is home to the lumbar spine. When a bone spur occurs between vertebrae in this area, it has the potential to cause localized backaches, as well as symptoms that radiate to the hips, buttocks, legs and feet. Such issues could include weakness, pain, numbness, muscle spasms or a pins-and-needles sensation.

Addressing the issue

In most cases, the symptoms caused by a spinal bone spur can be adequately addressed through conservative treatment measures like taking medications to mitigate pain, avoiding certain activities and performing specific exercises. However, more severe cases may require surgical intervention. Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to more traditional open spine options for patients with bone spurs and other degenerative spine conditions. Contact us today to learn more about our procedures and request a review of your recent MRI results.