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Spinal bone spurs

A bone spur, also known as an osteophyte, is a small, round calcium deposit that grows out of the surface of a bone. Bone spurs can occur on virtually any bone in the body, including the vertebrae of the spine. In some cases, they may irritate nearby tissues and/or nerves, which could cause severe symptoms if left untreated.

What causes bone spurs?

Bone spurs develop for a variety of reasons, but the majority are caused by friction from joints rubbing together. This bone-on-bone contact can result from:

  • Spinal osteoarthritis
  • Disc degeneration
  • Spondylosis
  • Traumatic injury

People who smoke, consume alcohol in excess, engage in high-impact exercise or are overweight have a higher risk of developing degenerative conditions that may lead to bone spurs.

What symptoms are associated with bone spurs?

Some people with bone spurs may not have any symptoms, while others experience severe localized or radiating pain, muscle weakness, numbness or tingling sensations or other symptoms that can make normal daily function difficult. The intensity of symptoms will depend entirely on whether or not the bone spur is protruding into a nearby tissue or nerve, and if so, to what extent.

How are bone spurs diagnosed and treated?

Most people with persistent back pain begin by visiting their primary care doctor, who will perform a thorough evaluation and may suggest a diagnostic test such as an X-ray or CT scan. If a bone spur has been identified as the source of the symptoms, a number of conservative treatments may be recommended, including:

  • Prescription or over-the-counter pain and/or anti-inflammatory medications
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Gentle exercise and stretching
  • Alternative therapies (yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic care)

Do I need surgery?

If your severe bone spur symptoms persist or worsen despite rounds of conservative treatment, you may be a candidate for spinal surgery. Laser Spine Institute Philadelphia offers minimally invasive, spine surgery that are an alternative to traditional open spine surgery. These advanced procedures are performed through a less than 1-inch incision by our board-certified surgeons+, allowing for an outpatient procedure.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review* to learn if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures.