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What are Spine Bone Spurs?

Spine bone spurs, also called osteophytes, are bony projections that develop in the spine’s facet joints where cartilage has worn out or along the vertebral body’s endplates edges. It can grow at any level of the spinal column such as the low and mid-back and in the neck.

Causes of Spine Bone Spurs

The main cause of bone spurs is from aging and degenerative disease conditions such as osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, and spinal stenosis. Other factors which can exacerbate bone spurs include past injuries and trauma to the spine.

Symptoms of Spine Bone Spurs

Most bone spurs cause no signs or symptoms and are often undiagnosed until an x-ray reveals the growths. Typical symptoms include neck or back pain while walking or standing. If the bone spur is present in the cervical spine, the pain may radiate into the shoulder. If the bone spur is present in the lumbar spine, the pain may radiate into the buttocks and thighs.

Bone spurs in the spine can also cause stenosis (narrowing of the spinal cord) resulting in neurological symptoms in the patient due to pressure on the nerves. Neurological symptoms may include a numbness or tingling sensation in one or both legs or arms, progressive weakness in one or both legs or arms, and in rare cases bladder and bowel incontinence. 

Diagnosis of Spine Bone Spurs

Diagnosis starts with a physical examination of the affected area and x-rays show the actual condition responsible for producing the symptoms. Other imaging techniques such as CT scan or MRI scan may be ordered by the doctor if there are complications to surrounding structures affected by the bone spur.

Treatment of Spine Bone Spurs

The conservative treatment for spine bone spurs includes:
Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxant medications initially provide pain relief and reduce swelling.
Rest: Most people respond well to a short period of rest.
Rehabilitation therapy: This involves physical therapy, stretching exercises, and chiropractic manipulation.  Chiropractic manipulation can be helpful in some cases but not when there is co-existing osteoporosis or herniated disc because it could increase the symptoms or cause injuries.
Steroid injections: Cortisone steroid injections are administered around the nerves or in the "epidural space” to decrease swelling and pain. 
Acupuncture: Acupuncture can be helpful in cases where the pain is less severe. 
In severe cases, surgical removal of the bone spur may be recommended as an option. Surgery is considered for patients in whom the pain or motor loss is documented on examination. A surgical procedure called a laminectomy is generally recommended. This procedure involves the removal of the bone, bone spurs, and ligaments that compress the nerves. 

  • American Medical Association
  • American College of Osteopathic Surgeons
  • American Osteopathic Association
  • North American Spine