If you are dealing with neck or back pain and you think a bone spur may be the culprit, you are probably interested in learning more about this condition, including how it is diagnosed and what your potential treatment options are. Also known as an osteophyte, a bone spur is a smooth calcium growth that can form on a bone — often as the result of friction that the bone is experiencing. Bone spurs are often a byproduct of another type of degenerative spinal condition, and painful symptoms can sometimes develop if they press against the spinal cord or a nerve root.
Diagnosing a spinal bone spur
If you want to determine if a spinal bone spur is the source of your symptoms, you should see a physician to receive a definitive diagnosis. The exam process will likely include a review of your family and personal medical histories to determine if you are predisposed to spinal degeneration, and a physical exam to gauge your reflexes and range of motion and pinpoint the area of the spine that is being affected. Your doctor will also likely perform one of the following imaging procedures to confirm your diagnosis:
- An X-ray. This is a good method for viewing the vertebrae and determining if there are bone spurs, problems with alignment or narrowed spaces.
- An MRI. An MRI can go a step further by allowing the doctor to assess the nerves and tissues surrounding the affected area of the spine to determine where the compression is occurring.
- A CT scan. This test can provide an incredibly detailed, three-dimensional view of the affected vertebrae.
Determining the best treatment options
Once the diagnosis process is completed, finding relief from your symptoms becomes the top priority. In many cases, the symptoms of a spinal bone spur can be reduced to a manageable level through conservative therapies such as the use of hot and cold compresses, physical therapy and pain medications. Lifestyle modifications, such as losing excess weight and avoiding frequent bending and lifting, can also help to reduce the strain that is being placed on the affected area of the spine. Some patients also choose to try alternative treatments like chiropractic care and therapeutic massage.
If you’ve exhausted your conservative and alternative treatment options and your bone spur symptoms are still making daily life difficult, it might be time to speak with your doctor about spine surgery. While he or she may suggest you explore traditional open spine surgery, USA Spine Care can treat bone spurs using minimally invasive spine surgery that utilizes a less than 1-inch incision and requires no lengthy recovery.^