What are Bone Spurs?
Bone spurs, also often referred to as “osteophytes,” are benign, atypical growths of bone that develop along the spine. In most cases, bone spurs form in and around the joints, where the bones meet and connect. When the body senses that a joint is inflamed, cells deposit extra bone in the area to compensate for lost bone mass or cartilage. This defense mechanism often backfires by creating harmful bone spurs instead of new, beneficial bone. Despite what their name may imply, bone spurs are usually smooth, sharp and rounded protrusions.
Although most bone spurs are not painful in and of themselves, they can place additional pressure on surrounding bones and soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments, tendons and sensitive nerves. When bone spurs begin to interfere with nearby systems, debilitating symptoms can result. Regions commonly affected by bone spurs include the upper, middle and lower spine, the hip, knee, shoulder, heel, jaw, foot, toes, hands and wrists.
Although the effects of a bone spur may not be evident at first or can take years to develop, they usually cause pain, tenderness and weakness once prevalent. Bone spurs are a common condition that cause problematic symptoms in over 40% of the population. Elderly adults are more likely to encounter bone spurs than younger men and women. Fortunately, bone spurs can usually be easily and efficiently treated once an accurate diagnosis has been attained and confirmed.
Bone Spurs Causes
Bone spurs commonly develop because of continued strain on a joint or the rubbing of one bone against another due to a lack of protective cartilage.
Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of bone spurs. As this disease breaks down the cartilage around your bones, the body attempts to repair itself by depositing additional bone in the affected area. Excess bone accumulates and encourages the development of bone spurs.
A number of factors besides osteoarthritis can cause or exacerbate bone spurs, including:
- Inflammation surrounding a degenerative disc in the vertebrae
- Bone breaks or fractures
- Being overweight or having obesity
- Genetic predisposition
- Spinal stenosis
- Improper posture
- Poor footwear
- Sports injuries and other sudden accidents
- Joint damage
- Plantar fasciitis
- Congenital conditions
If you believe you may be at risk for bone spurs, speak with your doctor about ways to maintain healthy joints. Living a balanced lifestyle, stretching, staying active and physically fit, keeping proper posture and exercising caution when lifting heavy objects or participating in strenuous activities may help you avoid experiencing bone spurs and other joint-related difficulties.
Bone Spurs Symptoms
The symptoms associated with a bone spur may develop gradually or appear suddenly. Pain usually intensifies with physical activity and becomes chronic over time. The following complications may be evidence of a bone spur:
- Pinched nerves in the spine (radiculopathy)
- Back or neck pain
- Spinal cord compression (myelopathy)
- Torn tendons or ligaments
- Dull pain that becomes worse when standing or walking
- Muscle spasms or cramps
- Problems with balance
- Radiating pain
- A limited range of motion or difficulty extending limbs
- Localized swelling, tenderness or redness
- Joints that appear knobby
- Decreased blood flow
- Tendinitis (the inflammation of the rotator cuff in the shoulder)
- Numbness and tingling sensations
- Weakness through the arms and legs resulting from an aggravated nerve root
- Mild or severe pain throughout the affected area and associated extremities
For many patients, receiving timely treatment is key to preventing further joint damage. In addition, the symptoms typically attributed to bone spurs can also be evidence of dangerous medical conditions, including cancer and high blood pressure. Seek medical attention to achieve optimal healing and avoid secondary complications if you believe you may be suffering from a bone spur. Call 911 immediately if you or a loved one begin to have trouble controlling the bowels or bladder, as this may signify a life-threatening medical emergency.
Our Minimally Invasive Treatment Approach
You do not have to resign yourself to the pain and discomfort associated with bone spurs as a part of your daily life. The team of skilled spinal experts at Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® regularly helps patients find safe and compassionate solutions to problematic bone spurs.
During your initial consultation, one of our experienced surgeons will carefully evaluate your medical history and physical state to obtain a clear and comprehensive diagnosis. If there is a chance you are encountering bone spurs, your doctor may request X-rays or other imaging tests to confirm their presence. Based upon this information, we will recommend treatment options designed for your unique situation and needs.
Conservative treatments, such as professional massage, physical therapy, chiropractic adjustment, alternating hot and cold treatments, cortisone injections, over-the-counter pain relievers and other medications can sometimes help manage the pain associated with bone spurs. If a bone spur is causing symptoms, however, it usually necessitates surgical removal.
At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, our acclaimed surgeons offer a number of traditional open surgeries and minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures to remove bone spurs. When compared with open operations, minimally invasive surgeries typically yield an array of benefits that include:
- Less pain associated with the procedure
- Faster recovery times that allow patients to return to their daily life faster
- A reduced risk of scarring, trauma to surrounding tissues and high volumes of blood loss
- Fewer potential post-surgery complications
A minimally invasive bone spur removal is performed through tiny incisions. Important muscles surrounding the spine are left unharmed, which allows the patient to recuperate fully and quickly. While recovery times vary, most men and women are cleared to return to their everyday activities within days or weeks. Full physical activities can sometimes be resumed in as little as a month, though this can vary depending on your unique situation. Before your surgery, your doctor will discuss strategies with you to maximize the positive effects of your surgery.
The surgical approach used depends upon the preferences of the patient, as well as several determining factors such as obesity, the presence of adhesions (scar tissue) and past surgeries. While conservative treatments can help in the alleviation of minor ailments, the surgical removal of bone spurs often provides definitive and final relief for patients.
To learn more about bone spurs or Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, please do not hesitate to get in touch by calling us directly at 972-255-5588 or by filling out the Contact form on our website. We look forward to speaking with you!