Bone Spurs in the Neck – An Overview

What is a Bone Spur

Bone spurs in the neck are smooth growths of excess bone that can develop after a traumatic injury or as a result of osteoarthritis in the cervical (upper) region of the spine. These growths, which are also known as osteophytes, are not always painful. However, symptoms from nerve compression can result if they narrow nerve pathways in the spine. The symptoms can be very debilitating, affecting the ability to do basic activities like driving, cooking, or working in the yard, but it is possible to find relief.

Conservative therapy will be the first form of treatment. The surgical removal of the problematic bone spur is occasionally considered if the symptoms do not improve, or become worse. Learning more about the causes and the full range of treatment options can help as you search for a treatment plan that is best for your individual needs.

Bone Spur Causes

Bone spurs are the result of many different factors. These excess bone growths are created by your body as a stabilizing response to bone-on-bone friction. These growths aren’t painful themselves but can put pressure on spinal nerves, causing symptoms that range from mild to debilitating. 

If you are suffering from pain to the point where it’s affecting your ability to do even basic activities, educating yourself about the risk factors and causes can be beneficial. This information can help you and your doctor makes a treatment decision with the best chance of getting you back to a healthy, active life.

While there are many spine conditions that can lead to the development of bone spurs in the neck, possibly the biggest underlying factor is the natural aging process. As we age, our bodies don’t stay as well hydrated, making connective tissue brittle and leading to the bone-on-bone contact that causes bone spurs to develop. Here are some specific bone spur causes:

  • Disc degeneration. Degenerative disc disease is an accelerated deterioration of the spinal discs that occurs due to aging. Bone spurs can develop as discs shrink and vertebrae come in contact with one another. 
  • Spinal osteoarthritis. This is a joint disorder that causes the cartilage between joints to wear away, leading to bone spurs.
  • Traumatic injury. Car accidents and impacts from physical sports like football can contribute to spinal bone spurs.

Simple practices can keep your neck and back healthy and can help you avoid common bone spur causes. For instance, by performing stretching routines and improving posture, you can increase the strength and flexibility of your neck and back.

Bone Spurs and Facet Disease

Facet disease, a term for spinal arthritis, is a common spine condition that often develops in the neck as a result of the natural aging process. The weight of the head combined with the flexibility of the cervical spine puts pressure on the individual parts, especially the joints and discs that allow for movement. 

Additionally the cartilage and lubricating joint fluid can dry out with age, making them more brittle. In the facet joints, which link adjacent vertebrae, the cartilage that coats the vertebral bodies can wear away, resulting in bone-on-bone contact. The body produces bone spurs as a natural stabilizing response to this increased friction and instability.

Bone Spur Treatment

Once the diagnosis is made, treatment usually begins with doctor-recommended treatments. Which can include rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, hot and cold compression therapy, massage and physical therapy. This mode of bone spur treatment usually has the following goals:

  • Relieve any pain and discomfort
  • Maintain or improve spinal stability and flexibility
  • Increase strength in the muscles surrounding the spinal column
  • Improve range of motion

However, if nonsurgical bone spur treatment does not allow for a return to normal activity, you will need to see a specialist to consider surgical options. If surgery becomes an option but you have concerns about the risks and difficulties of traditional open spine surgery, reach out to BEST Health System. 

BEST Health System

BEST Health System specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery. It is a safer and more effective alternative to traditional open-back procedures and offers many benefits. These include less risk of infection and no lengthy recovery. For more information on how BEST can help you find relief from chronic neck and back pain, contact us today