Bone spurs are often undetected and a minimal source for concern. Though they may create mild discomfort, a bone spur is usually managed with medication and self-monitoring for arising issues. But sometimes, bone spurs, especially on the spine, can be intrusive and cause great discomfort and difficulty throughout a patient’s day.
What is a Bone Spur in the Spine?
Small protrusions on an otherwise normal bone is called a bone spur. They can have a variety of different causes, but a typical one is friction between two bones rubbing together. This causes a build-up of calcium deposits, generated to help strengthen the bones against the friction to prevent damage. Smooth and often gradually growing, these calcium deposits known as bone spurs can push into local tissues and cause discomfort and pain at the site. In our case, these protrusions can affect nerve roots or the spinal cord itself, causing local and radiating pain issues for a patient.
What Causes a Bone Spur in the Spine?
Often a condition affecting people over the age of 60, bone spurs have a number of potential reasons for occurring:
- Disc degeneration, a natural condition that occurs in most people as they age. This on-going phenomenon happens when discs in the spine wear down and start to rub together, potentially forming bone spurs
- Suffering from a major traumatic injury might cause bone spurs if the injury has accelerated the degeneration of a patient’s spine, potentially causing friction and bone spurs, though this cause is less likely to occur
- Spinal osteoarthritis is the wearing down of cartilage between joints, leaving no cushion between the bone to bone contact in the spine. This can cause high levels of contact and friction between bones
- Unfortunately, aging is a potential source of bone spurs. As we age, our connective tissues tighten and can pull bones out of alignment. This leads to a potential situation where bones are meeting without any padding and grind together.
Symptoms of a Bone Spur in the Spine
The good news about a bone spur diagnosis is they are often asymptomatic, though having a diagnosis may mean that other health issues are occurring or symptoms are already detected by that point in time. The symptoms that tend to arise with bone spurs in the spine occur when they pinch or put pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots in the spine. These symptoms depend on the location of the spur and its nature.
- A bone spur in the lumbar region may cause pain, stiffness, numbness, tingling or weakness in the lower back and surrounding tissues and joints, sometimes extending to the legs and feet
- A spur on the thoracic spine can bring pain and discomfort to the middle back and has the potential to spread symptoms towards the upper or lower extremities
- At the top, a cervical bone spur may be one of the most troublesome, potentially causing headaches, stiffness in the neck and pain that can radiate all the way down to the fingers. There is an extra threat that may occur if the spur is pressing on the spinal cord in the neck called ‘myelopathy, which can weaken the legs and make walking difficult
Treatment Options for Bone Spurs in the Spine
Often times, a conservative approach to symptoms will be enough. It is not clear which method will be best for every patient, but trial and error may lead you to the right approach to symptom management:
Medication treatments with anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation and irritation in the affected tissue and pain medication to treat pain related to the bone spur can manage symptoms affectively in many patients.
Corticosteroid injections in the spine can alleviate pain and pressure.
Physical therapy and exercise will help with movement and reduce stiffness and pain. Physical therapists may also be able to employ special techniques such as heat application to provide additional relief.
What if Surgery is Required?
In some cases, traditional bone spur treatments may not be the most effective way of treating symptoms and may not alleviate your pain. If several months go by and pain is still an issue, then surgery can be a better choice. You first would need to speak with a spine specialist, such as Axis Brain and Back, to inquire about all possible surgical options.
Traditional open-back methods may cause more pain and are more invasive to the muscles adjacent to the affected area. Fortunately, we provide minimally invasive procedures that can provide a safer alternative and superior benefits, for instance, a faster recovery and smaller puncture. Here at Axis, our clients leave with their ailments behind their back, figuratively speaking. Seek medical care from Axis Brain and Back today, our team of professionals will work closely with you to explain all of the risks and benefits involved with bone spurs surgical treatment. Begin by contacting us online or give us a call at (817) 502-7411 to schedule for your free MRI review!