What is a bone spur?
A bone spur (osteophyte) is a bony growth formed on normal bone. It’s usually smooth but can create pain and inflammation when it rubs against nerves, ligaments, tendons, or other bones. Bone spurs are fairly common in people over the age of 60 and are typically found in the spine, shoulders, hands, hips, knees, and feet.
- The main cause of bone spurs on the spine is wear-and-tear degeneration.
- Normal wear and tear may cause the body to begin to produce new bone to try to stabilize the spine, forming a bone spur.
- Bone spurs are part of normal aging.
- They only become a problem when they compress the nerves.
What are the common symptoms of a bone spur?
Bone spurs can pinch the spinal cord or its nerve roots and may cause the following symptoms:
- Back and neck pain
- Pain radiating through an arm and/or leg
- Muscle cramps
How is a bone spur diagnosed?
The diagnosis of a bone spur begins with a physical examination at which your physician will determine where your pain is coming from. It is unlikely that your doctor will be able to feel a bone spur in your spine. Your doctor will also review your full medical history to determine what causes may be contributing to your pain.
Your physician may use a variety of diagnostic imaging tools to confirm that a bone spur is present. These can include:
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- CT scans (computed tomography)
How are bone spurs treated nonsurgically?
Bone spurs are treated only if they are causing symptoms. Nonsurgical treatment options include:
What are the surgical treatment options for bone spurs?
If bone spurs are compressing the nerves and causing symptoms, surgery may be an option to consider. Surgical treatments for bone spurs include:
- Disc replacement surgery
- Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion (ACDF)
- Decompression surgery, including laminectomy and foraminotomy
Disc replacement surgery
Disc replacement is most effective when the source of the pain is contained in the disc and the disc alone, and when the patient meets other qualifications, including a healthy weight, no prior major spine surgery, and no deformity in the spine.
More resources on disc replacement surgery:
- Read the article: Benefits of Cervical Disc Replacement
Cervical discectomy and fusion
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is a surgical procedure that involves relieving the pressure placed on nerve roots and/or the spinal cord by a herniated disc or bone spurs in the neck.
How is an ACDF performed?
Through a small incision made near the front of the neck, the surgeon:
- Removes the intervertebral disc to access the compressed nerves
- Relieves the pressure by removing its source
- Places a bone graft between the two vertebrae
- In some cases, adds metal plates or pins that will provide extra support and stability to help ensure proper fusion.
Learn more about anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.
The goal of laminectomy is to relieve the bone spurs’ pressure on the spinal nerves that is causing your symptoms.
How laminectomy works:
- Your orthopedic surgeon will make an incision near the center of your spine between two and six inches long.
- After the spine is accessed, the lamina (the “roof” of the vertebra) is removed.
- Through this incision, any bone spurs and damaged disc material are removed.
- Then, the incision is closed with sutures.
- As you heal in the weeks following surgery, the muscles and ligaments of the back will fill in the space where the lamina used to be.
A foraminotomy is another kind of decompression surgery that aims to reduce the pressure on your spinal nerves. The surgeon makes more room for the nerves by enlarging the opening the nerves travel through on their way out of the spinal canal.
Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise
Summit’s spine care team is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for the comprehensive expertise of our patient-centered care. Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action.
Start your journey to a healthy spine. Find your spine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a spine consultation.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.