Diagnosing a Spinal Bone Spur

What is a Bone Spur?

A bone spur is a rounded, bony growth that generally forms on joints and often remains asymptomatic. In fact, many people have bone spurs without knowing it. When they occur in the spine, it is possible for them to put pressure on spinal nerves. This can limit motion and cause painful symptoms. If you are dealing with symptoms that you think may be related to a bone spur in the spine it is important to see your doctor for a diagnosis and a treatment plan. 

Learning more about how physicians diagnose a bone spur can help you be a more confident and informed patient when you do make an appointment. This knowledge can help you work together with your doctor to develop a care plan with the best chance of helping you resume a better quality of life. 

Diagnostic Testing

You should schedule a visit with your primary care physician for neck or back pain that lasts more than a few days. Your doctor can review your medical history and perform physical exams to understand the cause of any symptoms. If the suspected root of the pain, discomfort, or numbness is a bone spur, they will recommend other steps that can provide a much closer look at the affected area and make a specific diagnosis. Some of these options include:

  • Radiographs/X-rays, allow medical professionals to see the affected bones and compare the progress of the condition over time.
  • CT scans (in conjunction with radiographs), help pinpoint the location of the bone spur by providing a cross-section view of the body.
  • Electro-conductive tests, like EMG and nerve conduction tests, can help eliminate other nerve compression sources from possible contributing factors.

Bone Spur Treatment

In many cases, symptoms can be managed with a course of conservative treatment options as prescribed by your physician. Commonly recommended steps include taking pain relievers, performing exercises to strengthen the back muscles, and epidural steroid injections. Surgery may then be recommended if weeks or months of treatment do not bring an improvement in symptoms.
Surgery is generally seen as a treatment of last resort by physicians because of the highly invasive nature of traditional open spine procedures. The large muscle-tearing incisions required often lead to hospitalization followed by a long, difficult recovery time. At BEST Health System, our board-certified surgeons perform minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery to decompress nerves affected by bone spurs. These procedures offer many advantages compared to traditional open spine surgery, including a shorter recovery time and less risk of complication. Contact BEST to learn more.