If you have back pain and you’ve been diagnosed with a spinal bone spur, or osteophyte, you might understandably conclude that it alone is causing your discomfort. After all, a bone spur sounds like it would be something sharp, pointy and likely to be “poking” into the surrounding tissues. But, contrary to its name, a bone spur is actually a smooth bony deposit that forms gradually over time as the body responds to joint degeneration. Therefore, while an osteophyte is an indication of degeneration in your spine, you may or may not need to do something about it.
How can a bone spur cause back pain?
A bone spur is excess bone, which naturally takes up space. Therefore, an osteophyte can encroach on the spinal canal and cause this normally open passageway to become narrower (a condition known as spinal stenosis). Because the spinal canal houses the spinal cord and a series of sensitive nerve roots, spinal stenosis can cause pain and other symptoms if nerve tissue becomes irritated or compressed as a result. For instance, a bone spur can cause spinal nerve compression that leads to:
- A dull backache
- Pain, numbness and tingling sensations that radiate from the lower back through the buttocks, legs and feet
- Leg muscle weakness
- Bladder or bowel incontinence (a rare but serious complication known as cauda equina syndrome, which requires emergency medical treatment)
What to do if a bone spur requires treatment
Many people with mild-to-moderate nerve compression or irritation caused by a bone spur are able to manage their symptoms effectively with nonsurgical treatments, such as rest, physical therapy, medications and epidural steroid injections. For severe pain that does not respond to conservative treatment, a spinal decompression procedure may be an option.
If you’ve been diagnosed with spinal nerve compression associated with a bone spur, contact USA Spine Care, the nation’s leader in minimally invasive spine surgery. Our team can provide a free MRI review* to help you explore your surgical treatment options and determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery.