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What Are Bone Spurs?


While the name “bone spur” may recall images of jagged bone, bone spurs are smooth. A bone spur, also known as an osteophyte, is a small and smooth projection that forms on the surface of a bone, often because of friction. Bone spurs commonly form within joints when bone rubs against other bone. Our body naturally tries to repair the damage by creating bone spurs. Bone spurs can form on any bone in your body, including on the vertebrae of the spine, which commonly happens from the wear and tear of aging.

Having bone spurs doesn’t always result in pain. Bone spurs become a problem when they grow large enough to press against nearby tissues. Bone spurs can also compress the spinal cord or a nerve root which may lead to pain, numbness, and weakness in the arms and legs. Bone spur treatment isn’t necessary unless the bone spurs are causing symptoms. Pain can often be treated using nonsurgical treatments like pain medication. Bone spurs that are compressing a nerve and impacting your range of motion may need to be surgically removed.

Our board-certified spine specialists have helped thousands of patients find relief from pain with minimally invasive treatments. Call us today at [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] to learn more about how we can help you feel better.

Bone spurs symptoms and information

Bone Spur Causes and Risk Factors

Bone spurs are caused by the friction of bone-on-bone contact. Though it is friction that creates a bone spur, causes of that type of friction include:

  • Disc degeneration – The bones in our spine are cushioned by small discs that wear down through repetitive movements. As they thin, the vertebrae can touch and cause bone spurs to form.
  • Osteoarthritis – This degenerative condition affects the joints of the spine by causing the cartilage between the joints to wear, resulting in the exposed joints rubbing against one another.
  • Aging – Our tendons and ligaments, which hold our bones in place, tighten as we age and cause our bones to shift and move out of place, sometimes resulting in contact with other bones.

Our risk of developing bone spurs can also increase with certain lifestyle factors such as excess weight and smoking because they accelerate the degeneration of the spine. A spinal injury can also increase the risk of degeneration of the spine and bone spur formation.

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Bone Spur Symptoms

Bone spur symptoms vary depending on their size and location. Not everyone who has bone spurs will experience pain and those who do can have pain that ranges from mild to severe.

Bone spurs on the spine may cause:

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Pain that radiates to the shoulders, arms, hands, buttocks, legs, and feet
  • Numbness, tingling, and weakness in the arms and hands or legs and feet
  • Stiffness

Spinal bone spurs can also reduce flexibility and range of motion, interfering with your ability to bend and move freely.

Bone Spur Treatment

Treatment for bone spurs begins with a series of conservative treatments, such as:

  • Pain medication – Over the counter and prescription pain medications can provide relief of pain caused by bone spurs.
  • Heat and cold – The application of heat and cold to the painful area can improve pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy – A physical therapist can help you with proper lifting and posture techniques, as well as exercise to improve strength and flexibility that may also help with bone spur prevention.
  • Exercise – Low impact exercises can help you maintain a healthy weight and protect your joints and spine from further damage. Exercise can also improve pain and stiffness.
  • Steroid injections – A steroid medication can be injected into the spine for temporary relief of pain.

Pain and weakness that is not relieved by nonsurgical treatments after a few weeks may require surgical bone spur treatment. The treatment of bone spurs can include one or a combination of minimally Invasive procedures depending on the area of the damage, how many discs are involved, etc. These procedures include:

  • Discectomy to remove a portion of a bulging or herniated disc
  • Laminotomy to create space in the spinal canal if a bone spur is crowding the space
  • Foraminotomy to remove bone spurs and other tissue impacting a nerve in the foramen

Don’t delay relief. If you’re ready to put an end to your back pain after nonsurgical treatment has failed to give you the relief you need, give us a call at [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] and take the first step toward getting back to doing the things you love.

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