Understanding Bone Spurs of the Spine

Xray of spine with bone spurs developing

Bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, are overgrowths of bone. Spurs can develop along bone edges, at ligament or tendon attachments, and within joint spaces, such as knees and hips. When bone spurs develop, they can cause pain through nerve impingement, friction against surrounding soft tissue, and changes in the joint’s normal patterns of motion. These spurs can, with care, be diagnosed and treated with help from the experts at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics.

Symptoms of Bone Spurs

Most bone spurs do not produce symptoms and go undetected for years. When pain does present, however, it can range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms may include joint achiness or stiffness. When severe, bone spurs can cause debilitating pain, frozen joints, or neurological deficits. The size and location of the bone spur can impact the severity of the symptoms.

Some common areas of bone spur formation include:

  • within the spinal column, which can lead to spinal pinched nerves and radiculopathy.
  • the shoulder, most commonly at the acromioclavicular joint (where the shoulder meets the collar bone);
  • in the hip and knees;
  • And on a heel of the foot;

Causes of Bone Spurs

The most common cause of bone spurs is joint damage from osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease. It is estimated that 1 in 4 adults have arthritis in at least 1 joint, and 88% of people who have OA are over the age of 45.

Bone spurs develop in response to repetitive wear and tear, or major trauma, to the cartilage and ligaments of a joint. As the cartilage cushioning breaks down at the ends of bones, the body attempts to repair the loss by creating bone near the damaged area, creating bone spurs. These overgrowths affect joints differently. In the shoulder, patients may have a loss of motion and damage to impinged tissue, which can lead to rotator cuff tears. Bone spurs in the knee and hip joint can also limit range of motion and make it difficult to walk, get up and down stairs, or get up from a chair. Heel spurs are common and are formed due to stress placed at the insertion of the plantar fascia. In the spine, bone spurs can cause narrowing of the canals where the spinal cord and nerves travel. This narrowing, called spinal stenosis, can cause neck and back pain, as well as neurological symptoms in the arms and legs, such as pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and loss of coordination which could impair a person’s ability to function normally.

When seeking treatment for bone spur-related pain or dysfunction, look for experienced, qualified specialists who understand the complexities of diagnosing spine and joint ailments: many symptoms, such as pain or tingling, cannot be measured and may result from common conditions unrelated to bone spurs. The diagnosis of symptomatic bone spurs can never be made from X-rays or MRIs alone because most adults have abnormal findings on their scans even if they do not have symptoms.

Bone Spur Treatment

A spine or joint specialist evaluating bone spurs must be willing to spend a great deal of time listening to patients to gather clues about where the symptoms are coming from. He or she must also conduct a detailed physical and neurological examination. It is only then that the specialist can make sense of complicated X-rays and MRI, which likely contain many abnormal findings, and determine whether these findings are related to a patient’s specific symptoms and signs. This is an important point: If the initial diagnosis is incorrect, all treatment plans will result in failure, even if those treatments are performed well.

The majority of bone spur sufferers will return to normal activity without surgery. The body has a remarkable capacity for healing, and the specialist’s role is to guide patients through this process quickly and prevent future recurrences of symptoms.

However, for the rare patients who do need injections or surgery to regain normal function, the specialists must have a broad range of skills and a proven record of technical mastery to assure optimal outcomes. Patients owe it to themselves to get treatment from the best specialists in the field.

Visit CNSO for Evaluation, Treatment, and Follow-up Care

The dedicated team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine, and Orthopedics (CNSO) understands how spinal and joint problems can impact someone’s daily life. By working with this team of renowned, board-certified neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, non-surgical physicians, physiatrists, rehabilitation specialists, and certified physical therapists, patients will receive comprehensive and coordinated care, so they can quickly resume a healthy, less painful lifestyle free from disability. CNSO offers multiple convenient locations spanning northern New Jersey in Jersey City, Morristown, Paramus, Wayne, and West Orange. NJ patients can learn more about effectively treating painful bone spurs by contacting the providers at CNSO today.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics
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