What Is a Bone Spur?

What Is a Bone Spur?

Bone spurs appear when the body attempts to fix joints or tendons that are unstable by adding bone tissue to stabilize movements. 

In the spine, bone spurs grow along the edge of the joints of the spine, often as a consequence of joint damage caused by arthritis. As the cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones gets worn down, the body creates bony growths in the damaged area. 

These growths can occur anywhere on the spine, and most people who have them don’t experience any symptoms. However, spinal bone spurs can become problematic once they’re large enough to put pressure on the surrounding nerves. 

Here, Dr. Bonaventure Ngu, our expert at Premier Spine Institute, explains the causes of bone spurs and how bone spurs are treated. 

Risk factors for bone spurs 

Common risk factors for bone spurs include the following:

If you already have bone spurs, you can reduce your risk of getting more by stretching and warming up before engaging in strenuous physical activities, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding strenuous activities that overuse the back, and wearing comfortable shoes. 

In adults past the age of 60, bone spurs are common, as the elderly have accumulated more wear and tear in the joints. However, not all bone spurs require treatment. 

Young adults are at a higher risk of developing bone spurs in the neck if they’re constantly looking down at screens. Looking down increases the amount of pressure on the neck, which increases the risk of joint damage. To fix this, keep your screens at eye level. 

Symptoms

Bone spurs can cause symptoms by compressing a nearby nerve. Signs of mild-to-moderate compression include radiating pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands or legs.

If the compression is severe, you may notice muscle weakness in your back, arms, or legs, poor flexibility, poor coordination, and, in rare cases, incontinence. 

Incontinence could be a sign of cauda equina syndrome, which is a medical emergency that can lead to permanent damage to the nerves, and, as a consequence, chronic incontinence and paralysis. 

Treating bone spurs

In most cases, bone spurs don’t need to be removed surgically unless they put a lot of pressure on a nearby nerve or cause severe deformities. 

Physical therapy, injections, and pain medications are often the first line of treatment for bone spurs. If you suspect you have them, contact us to schedule an appointment and find out how you can reduce your symptoms.

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