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Are bone spurs painful?

Bone spurs, or osteophytes, are natural protrusions that develop as a result of friction or trauma to the bones. They often occur around joints that have lost cartilage as an attempt to provide stability due to the increased bone-on-bone contact. Because of the pressure the spinal facet joints endure from supporting the upper body, bone spurs can very commonly develop in the spinal column.

While a bone spur by itself is not necessarily painful, they can cause symptoms that are extremely debilitating as a result of nerve compression. These symptoms can have an extreme impact on your quality of life, getting in the way of work, sleep and time with loved ones. By learning more about how a bone spur can cause pain, you can be more engaged with the treatment process as you work to find the relief you deserve.

How does a bone spur cause pain and other symptoms?

In addition to supporting the upper body and allowing for basic movement, the primary role of the spinal column is to protect the spinal cord as it travels from the brain to the rest of the body. The nerve pathways, such as the central spinal canal and nerve root exits, are very tight to begin with, so even a small amount of narrowing caused by displaced anatomy can put excess pressure on the nerves.

Bone spurs in the spine can specifically cause issues by compressing, or pinching, both exiting nerve roots and/or the spinal cord. Specific symptoms include:

  • Localized pain
  • Shooting pain into the upper or lower extremities
  • Tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the extremities

Treatment for bone spur pain

Many cases of spinal bone spurs do not cause symptoms, so if you have been diagnosed with this condition, it does not necessarily mean pain will occur. For patients experiencing symptoms, treatment will usually begin conservatively with therapies such as anti-inflammatory medication, hot and cold compression, physical therapy, massage and facet joint injections. Surgery can start to become an option if weeks or months of conservative treatment has not brought relief enough to comfortably engage in normal activity. If you are considering surgery, but have concerns about the risks and difficulties associated with traditional open spine procedures, contact USA Spine Care. Our minimally invasive spine surgery offers patients no lengthy recovery and less risk of complication compared to traditional open spine procedures.^

We can help you receive a free MRI review* to help you find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.

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