Bone spurs can develop in the neck due to excess stress on the cervical spine, which bends and twists continually while supporting the full weight of the head. Over time, this can take a significant toll on the spine. Also, as part of the natural aging process, the cartilage that lines the spinal joints in the neck can gradually weaken and break down. To help support and stabilize weakened spinal bones, the body may produce bone spurs through a process known as ossification. A spinal bone spur is nothing more than a smooth bony deposit that has formed on a damaged vertebra or facet joint.
Conditions caused by bone spurs in the neck
While bone spurs can serve a beneficial purpose, they can also encroach on the limited space within the spinal canal. This can lead to a condition known as spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the spinal canal. Because this hollow tunnel houses and protects the spinal cord and a series of nerve roots, spinal stenosis can potentially irritate or compress sensitive nerve tissue. Therefore, another condition that can be caused by a bone spur in the neck is nerve compression.
If a bone spur causes nerve compression in the neck (by pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord itself), various types and degrees of discomfort can occur. Depending on the location and extent of the nerve compression, some people experience:
- Neck pain
- Muscle weakness in the shoulders, arms and hands
- Numbness, tingling or burning sensations that radiate from the neck through the arms and hands
- A loss of fine motor function
- Walking difficulties
Surgical bone spur treatment
If bone spurs cause conditions such as spinal stenosis or nerve compression, which may require treatment, nonsurgical remedies such as physical therapy and pain medications can be very helpful. Sometimes, however, conservative treatment ultimately proves to be insufficient, in which case surgery may be considered. For instance, a surgeon may recommend physically removing the problematic bone spurs to alleviate the nerve compression that is causing the pain.
If you’d like to learn more about surgical treatment options for bone spurs, contact USA Spine Care. We can provide you with a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.