Bone spurs, or osteophytes, that form within the spine are the body’s response to diminished vertebral stability. According to Wolff’s law, developed in the late 19th century by German surgeon Julius Wolff, bone in a healthy person remodels itself internally and externally to adapt to an increased or decreased load. Bone spurs are the external manifestation of this – bony nodules that grow at joints and along other bone surfaces to make up for a loss of structural integrity.
Causes of Bones Spurs
Osteophytes typically form slowly, as a degenerative spinal condition begins to take its toll. They may develop as osteoarthritis robs joints of their cartilaginous lubrication. Or, bone spurs might form as an attempt to help shore up a vertebral segment in which the intervertebral disc has begun to degenerate because of dehydration of the nucleus or weakening of the disc’s fibrous outer wall. Occasionally, spinal ligaments might begin to calcify, leading to osteophyte formation. Regardless of the cause, most bone spurs produce no symptoms.
However, should a bone spur begin to compress a nerve root or the spinal cord, symptoms such as localized pain, radiating pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness can occur. Those who experience these symptoms in the form of chronic pain (defined as lasting for three months or longer) should see a doctor for diagnosis.
Treatment for Bone Spurs
Symptoms associated with osteophytes normally respond well to conservative treatments using pain medication, physical therapy, behavior modification and other non-operative methods. Should chronic pain persist after weeks or months of conservative treatment, a doctor might recommend surgery. Rather than resort to traditional open back surgery, tens of thousands of patients have rediscovered a life without pain at Laser Spine Institute (LSI). Contact LSI to learn about our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that require no hospital stay and involve a much shorter recuperation than traditional surgery.