Bone Spurs and Your Back Pain

The Diagnosis and Treatment for Bone Spurs of the Spine

Bone spurs are caused due to the degeneration of the spinal column.  The medical term for bone spurs is Osteophytes.  Osteophytes are the enlargement of the normal boney structure.  Bone spurs are spinal disks which have developed smooth surfaces and a wearing of the collagen and ligaments of the spine.  Bone spurs are commonly found in people over 60.  When the spinal disks deteriorate it causes the disk to apply pressure to the nerve roots, pinching the spinal nerves causing damage and pain. To determine the cause of your back pain your physician will perform a detailed thorough neurological and spinal evaluation to check for spinal nerve compression.

Common Diagnostic Tests Include:

  • Electroconductive tests– Commonly performed to document the degree and severity of the spinal nerve damage.
  • Radiographs– Most physician begin with an x-ray of the spine to determine the extent of arthritic changes and bone spur formation.  These x-rays will help your physician determine if additional x-rays are needed or if a more specialized CT or MRI scan is required to come up with a diagnosis.
  • Computerized tomography (CT scans) with Myelography and or MRI scans- CT or MRI scans can provide details about a change in the spinal structure and the amount of nerve system damage and compression.  These films along with the x-rays help the physician determine the best course of action to correct the condition or refer you to a spinal specialist.

Treatment Options for Bone Spurs:

There are many possible treatments available for bone spurs of the spine.  When a person is diagnosed with bone spurs, generally non-surgical methods are tried first, because they are often effective and less costly.

Non-Surgical Treatments

If the nerve compression is mild or moderate these non-operative options should provide relief.  These options are:

  • Medication- Such as anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant pain medication.  Usually a patient will take these medications for approximately 2 to 3 weeks, with good results.
  • Short period of rest- activity can cause a flare up in the joints, so a short period of 2 to 3 days worth of rest is appropriate and healing.
  • Rehabilitation therapy- After 1 or 2 weeks physical therapy, exercise and/or chiropractic adjustment often alleviates the painful joint conditions.  These treatments help to restore flexibility and strength to the neck and decreaes the compression on the nerve roots.
  • Injections- Cortisone epidural steroid injections have therapeutic value for some back patients.  The injections tend to reduce the joint inflammation by reducing the spinal pain and radiating pain or numbness in the arms or legs.

Spinal Surgery for Bone Spurs

Sometimes the non-surgical methods are not effective enough to relieve the pain caused by bone spurs and surgery may become necessary.

Surgery for bone spurs such as laminectomy helps to relieve the pain and neurological symptoms by removing the bone spurs and thickened ligaments causing the nerve compression.

Often after the patient has had surgery for bone spurs they experience almost immediate results.  If you are experiencing pain due to bone spurs discuss the options with your physician or spine specialist together you both can find the right action plan.

Barbara Lucore

I have been a nurse for 15+ years and as a nurse I understand how to prevent back strain and pain. The correct ways to lift objects, the causes of back pain, treatments available, the exercises to reduce or prevent back pain and the proper ways to move without strain or injury to your back.