If you have back pain and you’ve been diagnosed with a spinal bone spur or osteophyte, you might understandably conclude that it alone is causing your discomfort. After all, a bone spur sounds like it would be something sharp, pointy, and likely to be poking into surrounding tissues. But contrary to its name, a bone spur is actually smooth. It is a bony deposit that forms gradually over time as the body responds to joint degeneration. Therefore while an osteophyte is an indication of degeneration in your spine you may or may not need to do something about it.
How Can a Bone Spur Cause Back Pain?
A bone spur is an excess bone, which naturally takes up space. Therefore, an osteophyte can encroach on the spinal canal and cause this normally open passageway to become narrower (a condition known as spinal stenosis). Because the spinal canal houses the spinal cord and a series of sensitive nerve roots, spinal stenosis can cause pain and other symptoms if nerve tissue becomes irritated or compressed as a result. For instance, a bone spur can cause spinal nerve compression that leads to:
- A dull headache.
- Pain, numbness, and tingling sensations radiate from the lower back through the buttocks, legs, and feet
- Leg muscle weakness
- Bladder or bowel incontinence (a rare but serious complication known as cauda equina syndrome, which requires emergency medical treatment)
Your Treatment Options
Many people with mild to moderate nerve compression or irritation caused by a bone spur are able to manage their symptoms effectively with nonsurgical treatments such as rest, physical therapy, medication, and epidural steroid injections. For severe pain that doesn’t respond to conservative treatment a spinal decompression procedure may be an option.
If you’ve been diagnosed with spinal nerve compression associated with a bone spur, contact BEST Health System. We take pride in our minimally invasive procedures which typically use an incision that is less than an inch. In turn, this allows for a shorter recovery period and eliminates the need for an overnight hospital stay. Reach out and we can help determine if you are a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.