A spinal bone spur or osteophyte is a bony deposit produced naturally by the body. The body does this as a way to help stabilize a weakened facet joint. Despite what its name might suggest, a bone spur is smooth and rounded. It is not sharp nor pointy and is not necessarily a disability – or even painful. Usually, problems arise only if the excess bone encroaches on the spinal canal and compresses nearby spinal nerves. Because the spinal canal houses the spinal cord and a series of sensitive nerve roots within a very tight space, bone spurs can lead to spinal nerve compression.
That said, a spinal bone spur is not considered to be a disability in and of itself. Rather it is the associated spinal nerve compression (if any) that could potentially make it difficult to work and perform other activities.
How Can Spinal Nerve Compression Become Disabling?
A bone spur that forms on a spinal vertebra or facet joint can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms including:
- Neck or back pain
- Arm or leg muscle weakness
- Numbness and tingling sensations
- Reflex loss
- Swelling and inflammation
- Difficulty walking
The symptoms of spinal nerve compression can vary considerably depending on the location of the affected nerve, the amount of pressure created by the bone spur, and other factors. Some people experience only minor discomfort, while others are stricken with severe and disabling pain. For instance, if a compressed spinal nerve produces symptoms that make it difficult to walk or to move it may become impossible to maintain gainful employment.
How Are Bone Spurs Addressed?
If you’ve been diagnosed with a bone spur that is causing debilitating nerve compression, you are encouraged to contact BEST Health System to explore your surgical treatment options. Our team can help determine if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive outpatient procedures. These procedures are a much safer and more effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.