Bone Spurs

Bone spurs (osteophytes) are small, bony growths or projections which generally form in joint areas where two bones meet. These bone spurs develop as a result of damage to the joints. Some common areas where bone spurs may develop are feet, knees, hips, neck and the spine. In the spine, they are formed in areas of worn out cartilage in the facet joints anywhere in the neck region, mid back region or lower back region. The risk of bone spur formation increases with age and causes problems when it involves nerve impingement.

Causes and risk factors of Bone Spurs

Some common causes of bone spurs include age-related conditions such as:

  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a joint condition which damages the cartilage protecting the bones. As the protective cartilage is worn out, it results in the formation of bone spurs as part of the body’s natural repair process.
  • Degenerative disc diseases
  • Spinal injuries
  • Changes in spinal disc structure
  • Ligament and joint changes in the spine

Other risk factors may include:

  • Sports injuries/trauma
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis

Signs and symptoms of Bone Spurs

Bone spurs usually do not show any signs and symptoms. Although, they may exhibit the following signs and symptoms when there is increased pressure on the nerve roots:

Bones spurs in the neck region:

  • Dull neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Pain radiating to shoulders
  • Tingling and numbness sensation in the arms.

Bones spurs in the back region:

  • Pain in the lower or mid back region (depending on the location of bone spurs)
  • Pain radiating to buttocks and thighs
  • Numbness and tingling sensation in the buttocks and thighs
  • Weakness of legs
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Pain relief while taking rest.

Diagnosis of Bone Spurs

Bone spurs are diagnosed based on medical history, physical examination and diagnostic imaging scans.

Physical examination: Physical examination involves assessment of degree of motion with specific movements, location of pain and evaluation of nerve functioning and muscle strength of arms and legs.

Diagnostic imaging: X-rays can help in determining degenerative changes in the spine identify if any further scans such as CT-scan and MRI are required. A CT-scan provides cross-section views of the spine to evaluate the bone structure. An MRI gives a clear view of nerves, muscles, ligaments, spinal discs, cartilage and other soft tissues.

Treatment of Bone Spurs

Majority of patients with mild to moderate symptoms of bone spurs can be managed by non-surgical methods. They include:

  • Physical therapy: It involves rest, stretching and strengthening exercises to improve movement, spinal manipulation by physiotherapists and weight loss programs to relieve pressure.
  • Medications: Short term usage of medications including Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxants are advised for pain relief.
  • Injections: Spinal injections in the joint space may be recommended for pain relief if patients do not respond to physical therapy and medications.

Patients with extreme pain and poor response to non-surgical methods of treatment are recommended to undergo surgical treatments. They include:

  • Laminectomy: It involves removal of the bone spur and surrounding tissues compressing nerves in the spinal region. In some cases this procedure can be performed using minimally invasive techniques.
  • Foraminotomy: It involves the enlargement of hollow spaces through which the nerve roots pass within the vertebral column.


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