Bone growths on the edges of a set of vertebrae, often caused by degenerative disc disease and/or osteoarthritis.
What are Bone Spurs?
- The vertebrae that make up your spine are held together by ligaments and joints. Wear and tear, aging, sudden trauma, or injuries can cause degeneration of the joints. If the vertebrae disc thins, instability may occur, causing your body to thicken the ligaments and then forming calcified bone growths called bone spurs.
- Bone spurs can form on any joint in the body; most people are unaware of them.
- When the growths block the spinal canal and pinch or compress a nerve root or the spinal cord, then symptoms may be noticeable. Pain mimics other spinal conditions where pinched nerves may occur.
- Bone spurs are not necessarily the cause of back pain. They are a symptom of degenerative spinal conditions.
What causes it?
Understanding why bone spurs occur involves correctly diagnosing the spinal condition that caused them. This is because having bone spurs is not a spinal condition; it is a complication from whichever spinal condition you already have.
Degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis are the most common spinal conditions that may develop bone spurs. Degeneration occurs naturally and progresses throughout your life. Wear and tear, sudden trauma, injuries, and genetics are all contributors that may speed up degeneration of the spine. Osteoarthritis also develops in many elderly adults and involves the loss of cartilage in the joints and ligaments.
Bone spurs is common but largely go undetected until pain and other symptoms are experienced. The most common symptoms include: pain that may radiate in the upper or lower extremities, weakness or numbness, sciatica, and loss of motor functions.
However, symptoms may not occur unless nerves or the spinal cord in the spinal canal are compressed. Therefore, bone spurs may cause other spinal conditions, like narrowing of the spinal canal, or spinal stenosis. Some risk factors for such spinal conditions include: obesity, poor nutrition, diabetes, and poor posture.
How do you treat it?
Relieving pain from bone spurs involves treating the spinal condition that the bone spurs are related to and decompressing the spinal cord or the affected spinal nerve(s). The only way to remove bone spurs is through surgery, so conservative methods for pain relief are always recommended first.
Common non-surgical treatment options for bone spurs include: rest to relieve inflammation, pain and anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and steroidal injections. Sometimes the spinal condition that caused bone spurs may be so severe that conservative methods may not successfully relieve pain or treat the condition.
If conservative methods do not work, then surgery will be recommended. Laminectomy involves removing bone spurs and thinning the affected vertebral ligaments. If bone spurs is a symptom of degenerative disc disease, then other conditions may also be present like herniated discs or spinal stenosis.
If you feel you are a good candidate for spinal surgery, please send us your MRI scan here. We can review it for free to see if you qualify for surgery performed by our top surgeons in picturesque Cayman Islands.