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Causes, Symptoms and Treatments of Bone Spurs

By Debra Rodzinak

Bone spurs, also called osteophytes, are a response to degenerative changes in the spine. These occur most often in the joints of the lower spine. Lumbar osteophytes are bone spurs that form in the lumbar region of the back. Surprisingly, they are smooth growths and not spiky as the name suggests. 

There are spongy discs that keep the bones of the spine from rubbing together. When these discs begin to break down, either from degenerative diseases or injury, the body will try to compensate by forming bone spurs on the joints.

Causes of Bone Spurs

Any time the body responds to the excess movement of the joints, smooth bony growths appear on the joints. When the spine degenerates, proteins are released and bone spurs appear. Normal aging, injury, poor posture, and even poor nutrition can all add to discs wearing away. Degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis can also cause the formation of bone spurs. A normal part of aging is spinal degeneration, but with added factors like poor posture, this wearing away can be accelerated.

Symptoms of Bone Spurs

Bone spurs do not always cause pain. However, in severe cases when the nerves of the lower back are compressed between a bone spur and a vertebra, excruciating pain can occur. Bone spurs also cause intense pain when they form in the small hole where the nerve roots exit the spine.

Some symptoms of bone spurs include tingling, weakness, numbness or radiating pain that travels down the legs and feet. Stiffness, pain that gets worse with movement, decreased ability to move the back, and pain that gets better with rest are all signs that bone spurs may be present. However, since they have similar symptoms to other conditions, consult a professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment for Bone Spurs

If a patient suffers from mild or moderate compression of the spinal nerves from bone spurs, the symptoms can be managed without surgery. Some examples include:

  • Nonprescription drugs such as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications taken for approximately 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Short periods of rest that are long enough to relieve the pain, but short enough to keep the muscles of the back from atrophy. 
  • Physical therapy that concentrates on moving the affected area.
  • Exercise that concentrates on strengthening the muscles that surround the core and spine.
  • Chiropractic adjustments that allow the vertebrae and joints of the spine to decompress and realign properly.

If you have consulted your primary physician and discovered you have bone spurs, drop by The Joint for a gentle spinal adjustment. With no pesky insurance forms to fill out or appointment times to remember, a trip to The Joint can help you find relief from your bone spur pain.

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