You may have heard of osteophytes being referred to as bone spurs. This is a fairly intimidating name that is a bit of a misnomer— bone spurs are not actually sharp, spur-like projections; instead, they are smooth nodules of bone that appear along the edges of bone and in joint spaces. Your body actually produces osteophytes as a way to reinforce bone weakness, but the bony overgrowths can end up doing more harm than good.
The spine is a common site of bone spurs. Degenerative spine conditions, like facet disease and spinal arthritis, cause a general weakening of the spinal anatomy as protective cartilage wears away. In an attempt to stabilize the spine, the body may produce bone spurs along the edges of vertebrae and inside facet joints.
Symptoms of Spinal Osteophytes
The majority of people who have osteophytes will never even know they have them. In and of themselves, bone spurs are completely asymptomatic. However, when bone spurs intrude on the spinal canal and compress adjacent spinal nerves, a series of painful symptoms can ensue.
- Cervical region – Bone spurs in the neck can cause tingling, numbness, and weakness to radiate through the shoulders, arms, and hands.
- Thoracic region – Bone spurs in the middle back can cause pain or a pins-and-needles sensation around the rib cage.
- Lumbar region – Bone spurs in the lower back can put pressure on the sciatica nerve, which manifests as a burning or “electric” feeling that courses through the buttocks and legs.
Treatment Options for Osteophytes
Most patients can effectively manage their symptoms with a series of conservative treatments that might include pain medication, hot-cold therapy, mild stretching, and low-impact exercise. If, after weeks or months of unsuccessful treatment methods, your doctor suggests you consider surgery, do not automatically assume that an invasive open spine operation is your only option. Instead, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive, endoscopic decompression procedures have helped tens of thousands of people find relief from osteophyte-induced back and neck pain.