Osteophytes, Bone Spurs & Back Pain

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: October 13, 2015

osteophytes back pain

Osteophytes, more commonly referred to as bone spurs, are small bony growths that develop where two bones meet. Bone spurs typically develop in joint areas that get used a lot, like in your ankle or elbow, but they can also develop in your back. Osteophyte development in your spine indicates that degeneration is occurring, which means some structural deformity is causing your pain. Today, we take a closer look at how osteophytes develop in your back, and how the condition is treated.

Bone Spurs In Your Back

Your spine is comprised of 32 separate vertebral segments that are joined by intervertebral discs formed out of collagen and ligaments. Similar to the shocks on your car, these soft discs act as natural impact absorbers. They also allow a person to move freely, but excessive and repeated movement can cause the disc material to wear out over time. This is the first step in spinal osteophyte formation, and here’s a step-by-step look at how they develop:

  1. Over time, disc material begins to wear out. Ligaments become loose, causing even more motion at the joint.
  2. The body attempts to correct this degeneration by thickening the ligaments that connect the discs.
  3. Eventually, the thickened ligaments begin to calcify, which results in the development of small bony flecks or spurs.

When bone spurs develop, a person may experience regionalized pain, difficulty moving and numbness in their back.

Bone Spur Identification and Treatment

If you believe you’re dealing with bone spurs or disc degeneration, a doctor will often call for an X-ray or MRI. Osteophytes are easily identifiable with modern imaging techniques.

If the scan shows that bone spurs are causing your pain, your doctor will walk you through a few surgical and non-invasive options. Non-surgical treatment options include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Rest, which can treat inflammation caused by excessive motion
  • Physical therapy

If non-operative techniques prove ineffective, a doctor may recommend a more hands-on approach. Relief can generally be found through cortisone injections or spur removal surgery. Steroid injections help provide short-term relief, while surgery has better long-term outcomes. According to those who have undergone bone spur removal, the majority of patients experience positive results and see an improvement in their overall quality of life.

So if you believe you’re dealing with bone spurs or a related condition, do yourself a favor and schedule a consultation with a spine specialist today.

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