Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi
Bone spurs are tiny bone fragments that can form in your body that irritate nearby nerves and structures. In the spine, they commonly form as the body works to stabilize exposed joints that are rubbing against one another as a result of arthritic degeneration. These tiny growths aren’t painful in and of themselves, but if they irritate or compress a nearby nerve, pain or inflammation can develop.
Oftentimes these bone spurs can be successfully removed with a surgical operation, but surgery also carries with it some risks, so nonoperative management is typically the first course of action. Below, we take a closer look at some of the non-surgical ways that spinal bone spurs can be effectively treated.
Managing Spinal Bone Spurs Without Surgery
If you’re dealing with back pain, numbness, limited flexibility or pain that travels down your extremities when you move in a certain way, reach out to a spine specialist to see if bone spurs could be the culprit. After a physical exam, they’ll likely look for the presence of bone spurs with the help of an x-ray, which can spot the location of these tiny bone fragments.
If bone spurs are uncovered, your specialist will talk to you about some of your conservative options, which will likely include one or more of the following options:
- Physical Therapy – Physical therapy can be an effective treatment for symptomatic bone spurs for a couple of reasons. For starters, PT can deliver highly-focused treatment, meaning your care team can develop a therapy routine that targets specific muscles and structures that can provide the most benefit for your unique situation. Physical therapy will work to strengthen muscles and ligaments in your back and neck to give your spine some added support, which in turn can relieve some of the pressure that a bone spur may be putting on a nerve root. It’s also considered a helpful technique because it gives the individual the tools they need to manage a flare up if symptoms ever return in the future.
- Medications – An anti-inflammatory medication can also help to relieve symptoms caused by a bone spur, but as we’ve said on the blog countless times in the past, medications should not be your only treatment option because they are passive in nature. They can help to calm your inflammation, but if you keep doing the same things that led to bone spur onset in the first place, relief will be short-lived, and medications can become less effective when taken over an extended period of time. Use medications to calm discomfort so that other active treatments can be more effective.
- Posture Improvements – If you slouch in your chair, you’re putting more stress on your lumbar spine, which can cause problems if that’s where bone spurs reside. Similarly, hunching forward or bending your neck down to look at your smartphone in your lap will put more pressure on your cervical spine, which will cause symptoms if your spurs are located at the top of your spine. Ideal posture ensures that pressure is dispersed evenly across the spine, making it less likely that excess pressure will lead to spur-related symptoms.
- Lifestyle Changes – Finally, making some simple lifestyle adjustments can also help to alleviate symptoms caused by bone spurs. For example, losing some weight will help take pressure off your spine, which can take pressure off of spinal nerve roots and naturally decompress areas. Giving up smoking is also helpful, as smoking can inhibit healthy blood flow and speed up disc degeneration, which is a common cause of bone spur formation.
Odds are you’ll find that if you pursue multiple treatments on this list, your bone spur-related discomfort will lessen or alleviate all together. For more information about treating spinal bone spurs, or to talk with a specialist well-versed in non-operative and surgical methods to address bone spurs, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today at (651) 430-3800.