What Are Bone Spurs?

Bone SpursBone spurs, also called osteophytes, are bony-like growths that form on a normal bone and can cause chronic back pain. Bone spurs form as part of the aging process and also in response to pressure, rubbing, or stress that continues over a long period of time and the body tries to repair itself by building extra bone, resulting in the spur. Bone spurs on the spine can limit joint movement and put pressure on nerves causing chronic back pain, numbness or tingling sensations in the hands and feet. In some cases, endoscopic spine surgery can treat bone spurs.

As we age, the discs that provide cushioning between the bones of the spine may break down and the slippery tissue called cartilage that covers the ends of the bones within joints, breaks down and eventually wears away, this is called osteoarthritis. Bone spurs are usually found on the spine, shoulders, hands, hips, knees or feet. Spurs due to aging are especially common in the joints of the spine and feet.

If a spinal bone spur grows inward, it can cause pain by constricting the spinal canal and pressing on the nerve roots. When a spinal bone spur presses on surrounding nerve structures it becomes a source of mild to severe nerve-related pain, and should be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. Back or neck bone spurs usually form after a fracture of the vertebra. Vertebral fractures can be caused by a traumatic event or injury, although more often they generally result from simple stresses, such as lifting. Because the spine naturally weakens from aging and daily wear and tear, spinal bone spurs are more common in older people than in younger people.

Bone Spur Symptoms

Back and neck bone spurs are actually quite smooth and will often not have any symptoms. It is only when the spur presses on a nearby structure that they will start to cause problems. When symptoms are present they include, chronic back pain, joint pain and loss of motion in the joint. Bone spurs on the spine may press on nerves, causing numbness or tingling sensations in other parts of the body. Over time, this leads to pain and swelling and, in some cases, bone spurs forming along the edges of the joint. Bone spurs on the neck may grow inward making it difficult to swallow or breath, or they may push against veins in the neck restricting blood flow to the brain.

A specific type of bone spur known as facet joint bone spurs, affect the structures that enable motion and therefore can cause bone spur symptoms in conjunction with movement.

How is a Bone Spur Diagnosed?

In most cases, a bone spur is only discovered when an X-ray is done for another condition.

Bone Spur Treatment Options

At the Spine Center of America, we will devise treatment options tailored to your specific condition. We take both non-surgical and surgical approaches to treat your condition, depending on the severity and the treatment plan that is right for you. Since your treatment involves the spine, it is strongly recommended that a board certified spine surgeon performs the procedure. Every physician at our comprehensive spine center is a board certified spinal surgeon.


Traditional, non-surgical back and neck bone spurs treatment is accomplished through a conservative nature. Conservative bone spur treatments are often able to mitigate mild to moderate nerve compression and is usually the first course of treatment.
The most common back and neck bone spurs treatment options that are attempted first are medication, physical therapy, rest, and activity modification. Your doctor and a physical therapist will be able to assist you with this.
We may also recommend epidural steroid injections for pain management depending on the advancement of your condition. Epidural injections can help you feel more comfortable so that you are more likely to successfully progress during physical therapy.
It is also important to take into consideration what condition your spine is in, and what kind of impact your symptoms have on your daily life. In some people, symptoms may be more severe and require more aggressive bone spur treatment.
If after 6 – 8 weeks of conservative treatment fail to relieve your pain, spinal bone spur surgery may be the next proper course of treatment. Loss of coordination in your arms or legs, however, might indicate the need to undergo bone spur surgery sooner. This decision should be an educated one, made with the help of a doctor. For many people, conservative treatment may provide enough relief from their symptoms and will not require bone spur removal surgery.


The main purpose of spinal bone spur surgery is to remove the bone spurs and to repair the damage areas, if necessary. Bone spur removal and any necessary spinal repair can be accomplished with either open spine surgery, or minimally invasive endoscopic spine surgery.
With traditional open spine surgery, the surgeon makes an incision in the skin, to gain access to the bone spur, whereas with minimally invasive endoscopic spine surgery, the surgeon needs only a small incision to gain access to the bone spur. Compared with open spine surgery, minimally invasive endoscopic surgery is associated with high success rates and, a fast recovery, no need for general anesthesia, no hospitalization, and many other advantages. Our board certified spine surgeons perform with the open or endoscopic method depending on the nature and severity of your condition.

If you need more information about this condition, feel free to visit our spine educational videos page or contact us to get your questions answered or schedule an appointment.