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Bone Spurs

Bone Spur Causes, Symptoms, Surgery, and Treatment

Bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, are calcified ,hard lumps of additional bone that develop on the ends of spinal bones or surrounding joints. They frequently occur near joints damaged by osteoarthritis, a disorder that causes painful and stiff joints. Bone spurs can also form when adjacent cartilage or tendons are inflamed or injured. Osteophytes can sprout from any bone, but they're most common in the neck, shoulders, knees, lower back, fingers, foot, and heels, where cartilage has degraded. Bone spurs are also common around degenerative discs in the spine.

Bone spurs are the body's natural means of redistributing weight over a greater surface, cushioning the bone. They also decrease the range of motion, inhibiting activities that could create bony stress. The majority of bone spurs do not create any complications. Patients will only develop symptoms like pain and stiffness if the outgrowths rub against other bones or irritate surrounding nerves.

Causes of bone spurs

One of the leading causes of bone spur is arthritis. When the joints are impacted by arthritis, osteophytes develop. In the rear of the spine, each vertebra has two pairs of facets. Facet joints are formed when these facets meet those of the vertebrae above and below. During spinal movement, the facets rub against one another. Smooth, slippery cartilage coats the facets, allowing them to glide against one another. A condition known as spinal osteoarthritis develops as the protective layer of cartilage wears away. Bone spurs form as a result of the increased tension. The neck and lower back are the most common sites of spinal osteoarthritis. It can result in stiffness, discomfort, and other side effects.

Another cause of bone spurs in the spine is Degenerative Disc Disease which is the wear and strain on an intervertebral disc. Discs between the spine’s vertebrae operate as shock absorbers. When a disc is injured, it might cause friction between the vertebrae above and below it. A deteriorated disc is more likely to cause spine instability, and instability is more likely to cause enthesophytes, a form of bone spur.

How enthesophytes form

The ligaments that keep the vertebrae together relax as the intervertebral discs wear out. As a result, the spine loses some of its stability. Instability puts additional strain on the loose ligaments, creating inflammation. These ligaments may thicken spontaneously to reduce excessive motion and regain strength. The enthesis, the connective tissue that connects another soft tissue, such as a ligament, to a bone, gets inflamed due this process. The vertebra's bone development is affected by inflammation at the enthesis. The enthesis tissue calcifies and forms a bone spur because vertebral bone cells are deposited where they would not ordinarily be.

Who is at risk of developing bone spurs?

Bone spurs are most commonly caused by aging as joints deteriorate over time due to wear and tear. Bone spurs are a typical imaging result, especially in persons over the age of 50. Similarly, most patients who suffer from a compressed nerve root or spinal stenosis due to bone spurs are in their 60s and 70s.

Apart from age, other factors can contribute to the development of bone spurs. Patients with scoliosis or other spinal problems are at a higher risk of developing bone spurs. Similarly, maintaining poor posture or overusing can also lead to a spinal disorder like bone spurs. Lifestyle choices like dietary decisions and physical conditions also play a part in an individuals’ spinal health. For instance, being obese can put extra pressure on the spine.  

Symptoms of bone spurs

The symptoms related to bone spurs typically develop slowly over time. Patients will often experience pain, numbness, and weakness in different parts of the body. These symptoms can become worse with activities like bending, prolonged sitting, and twisting. However, most symptoms will improve with adequate rest and supplementary medication.

Bone spur symptoms are often location-specific. The two commonly affected segments in the spine are the cervical and lumbar spine.

Symptoms of bone spurs in the cervical spine

Patients may experience the following symptoms depending on the location of bone spurs in the neck;

  •  Numbness, or tingling in one or both arms
  • Radiculopathy in the neck and shoulders
  • Weakness in the upper arms

Symptoms of bone spurs in the lumbar spine

Patients may experience the following symptoms depending on the location of bone spurs in the lower back;

  • Weakness in one or both legs
  • Dull lumbar pain triggered by standing or walking.
  • Loss of sensation, or tingling into the buttocks and back of the thighs

How bone spurs cause pain

Bone spurs don’t cause symptoms by themselves. Pain experienced due to bone spurs can develop in three ways;

1. Nerve root compression

The neural foramina, which is where the nerve roots exit the spinal column, can become constricted due to bone spurs. The nerve roots may become squeezed if there isn't enough space. Nerve root compression can produce paresthesia as well as inflammation of the nerves. Pain can occur when the nerve root becomes irritated.

2. Spinal cord compression

Bone spurs can extend into the spinal canal, reducing the space available for the spinal cord. The spinal cord can be compressed, resulting in numbness, tiredness, discomfort, and other complications.

3. Facet joint inflammation

Bone spurs in the spine’s facet joints can cause adjacent vertebrae to grind against one another, causing tension and inflammation. Pain, stiffness, and other symptoms may result from the inflammation.

Diagnosis of bone spurs

Consultation with a medical professional is the only way to diagnose bone spurs and identify the best treatment recommendations. The doctor will start by taking a medical history and performing a physical exam. 

The patient will be asked to conduct specified motions to verify nerve function and muscle strength in the limbs and examine the range of motion of the spine. These clinical tests can assist in identifying whether symptoms are caused by compression of the spinal nerves and spinal cord or another condition.

The doctor is then likely to call for an imaging test to assess the existing condition of the bone structure in the affected region. Soft tissues such as discs, nerve roots, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and cartilage are best examined with an MRI scan. 

Doctors can also use x-rays to see whether there are any bone spurs or evidence of spinal degeneration. X-rays assist doctors in determining whether more medical imaging, such as a CT or MRI scan, is required. A CT scan is a type of x-ray that produces several cross-sectional images of the body. CT scans can better show nerves, bone, and soft tissue when contrast is injected into the cerebrospinal fluid placed in the intrathecal space.

MRI diagnosis

Treatment of bone spurs

The majority of patients with mild to moderate nerve compression and irritation caused by bone spurs can adequately manage their symptoms without surgery—nonsurgical treatment help to address the problem of pain and inflammation.

If the discomfort from a bone spur is minor and only occurs once in a while, your doctor will prescribe an over-the-counter pain reliever. A steroid shot could also help to reduce swelling and inflammation gradually. Patients should undertake long-term medication use with discretion due to the danger of side effects.

Back discomfort caused by bone spurs can also be relieved with physical therapy and exercise conducted by trained therapists. These rehabilitation techniques aim to improve posture and reduce nerve root compression by restoring flexibility and strength to the spine. Likewise, a physical treatment that focuses on strengthening the muscles around the afflicted joint will assist patients in moving in a way that does not put pressure on their nerves.

A bone spur pressing on a nerve can produce significant discomfort and limit the patient’s range of motion. A doctor might propose surgery in this scenario. Bone spur surgery involves removing excess tissue and bone to ease pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. There are several procedures available for patients to choose from, including minimally invasive laser spine surgery which can be used to correct spinal abnormalities, including bone spurs. At Deuk spine, we have perfected a peer-reviewed treatment option with a 95% success rate and allows patients to regain complete control of their bodies in less than three days.

The level of spinal degeneration and the patient's dedication to rehabilitation are two factors that influence whether or not surgery will eliminate pain and other symptoms caused by bone spurs.

How to prevent bone spurs

Bone spurs that develop as a result of arthritis' natural wear and tear are usually irreversible. Patients can, however, take the following precautions to avoid bone spurs caused by other factors;

  • To preserve the strength of your bones, adopt a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
  • Maintain a regular exercise routine to stay fit and in shape
  • Keep good posture when standing or sitting to sustain back strength and stabilize the spine.
  • Employ physical therapy to master techniques that will improve and strengthen the muscle around the joints.

Are you or a loved one experiencing back pain or other symptoms? Deuk Spine Institute is always accepting new patient inquiries. To learn more, contact us or give us a call at 1-800-FIX-MY-BACK.

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