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Bone spur information

A bone spur is a growth, or calcium deposit, that develops on the surface of a bone. Regarding bone spurs of the spine, this calcium deposit will develop on a vertebra that has been weakened or damaged, typically as a result of the natural aging of the spine.

Causes of a bone spur

A bone spur often develops with the natural aging and weakening of the spine. Over the years, the spine undergoes pressure from weight gain and repetitive motion. These factors are the two most common causes of disc degeneration in the spine. But what does disc deterioration have to do with bone spurs?

The discs in the spine are responsible for cushioning and supporting the vertebrae. Every bodily impact, from daily walking to strenuous activities, is absorbed by the discs to protect the vertebrae and the integrity of the spine.

However, as time and age wear down these discs, the vertebrae risk rubbing together during movements like bending and twisting. The friction of vertebra on vertebra can cause these bones to grind and weaken, potentially creating instability in the spine. When this happens, bone spurs will develop on the weakened vertebra near the damaged disc to help support the spine. This bone spur, though meant to help the spine, can compress a nearby nerve root and cause severe pain and symptoms.

Symptoms of a bone spur

Many times, a bone spur will develop in the spine without any noticeable symptoms. This is because symptoms only occur when a nerve in compressed, whether in the spinal canal or the spinal cord itself.

When a bone spur compresses a nerve, the following symptoms can develop:

  • Pain, both local and radiating
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Burning sensation
  • Limited mobility
  • Stiffness

These symptoms may begin in the neck or back and travel along the compressed nerve root into other areas of the body. For example, a pinched nerve from a bone spur in the neck may cause pain and symptoms in the head, shoulder, arm and hand.

Diagnosing a bone spur

If you have been experiencing these symptoms for multiple weeks, and at-home remedies are not offering any relief, you should schedule an appointment with your primary doctor to diagnose the cause of your pain.

Typically, your appointment will consist of three diagnosis steps: questions regarding your symptoms, a physical evaluation and ordering of an imaging test. These three components will help your doctor determine what is causing your pain and the best methods of treatment.

Before your appointment, make a list of questions you want to discuss with your doctor about your pain and the treatments available to you. Be ready to answer questions about your symptoms, such as:

  • How long have you been experiencing this pain?
  • Where do you symptoms occur?
  • Does anything relieve or worsen your pain?
  • Have you experienced any traumatic injury or spine-jarring event in the last three to six months?

Once the doctor has completed all of the exams, he or she can make an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your pain. If it is determined that you have a bone spur, you may be recommended a series of conservative treatments for pain relief.

Conservative treatments for a bone spur

Many patients with a bone spur can find relief through a series of doctor-recommended conservative treatments. These treatments are nonsurgical and designed to reduce pressure on the pinched nerve in the spine. Such conservative treatments may include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Low-impact exercises
  • Stretches
  • Weight loss and lifestyle changes

Other methods of conservative treatment reduce the pain of a bone spur by blocking the pinched nerve in the spine from sending pain signals to the brain. These treatments include:

  • Pain medication
  • Corticosteroid injections

These treatments often take several weeks or months before they begin to effectively relieve the symptoms of a bone spur. However, some patients may not experience relief from conservative treatments, and surgery may be recommended.

Surgery for bone spur treatment

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery to treat common spine conditions such as a bone spur. Our procedures use muscle-sparing techniques to reduce the risk of complications and scar tissue buildup often associated with traditional open neck and back surgery. Because of these techniques, our minimally invasive procedures offer patients a shorter recovery time^ than patients who have traditional spine surgery.

To treat a bone spur, our surgeons make a small incision in the spine, often less than 1-inch in length, and remove the portion of the bone spur that is impacting the nearby nerve. In some cases, the damaged disc that has contributed to the bone spur may need to be repaired.

Find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures by requesting a no-cost MRI review* from Laser Spine Institute today. We can help guide you toward the next step in your treatment plan.