A bone spur is an outgrowth of calcium deposits that hardens into bone. It is typically found on the outer edges of joints, the front of your vertebra, or the back of the vertebra causing a disc osteophyte complex.
What are some common causes of bone spurs?
As it relates to joints they are typically caused by abnormal stress on a joint, and this is the bodies way of trying to stabilize that joint. In the spine, bone spurs usually occur along a disc, and is then labeled a disc osteophyte complex. When the disc is breaking down and not doing its job of distributing weight properly, the body will lay down calcium as a way to stiffen and stabilize the area. Unfortunately, this stiffening and lack of movement can lead to more pain and limited mobility.
Injury or trauma from high impact sports can certainly cause the spine to age more quickly or deteriorate faster than a healthy spine. And we certainly see bone spurs more often in spines that have encountered trauma like whiplash or injuries. Finally, a sedentary life style can have a great impact on how hydrated our spine is or isn’t and dehydration can lead to an injured disc. Other factors like poor nutrition, weight gain, and smoking can increase the likelihood.
Symptoms of Bone Spurs
The symptoms range from no pain or mild stiffness to cases where a bone spur can put pressure on a nerve leading to local or radiating pain and severe stiffness, or it can put pressure on a nerve causing numbness or tingling in your arms or legs.
In severe cases, they can cause a narrowing of the spinal canal called spinal stenosis which can lead to severe low back pain and lower extremity muscle weakness, and in worst cases cause loss of bowel or bladder control.
Surgically grinding a bone spur away is only called for if a person is suffering with a pure bony stenosis. This is fairly uncommon. Otherwise grinding a bone spur down on the spine typically has little affect on reducing pain or restoring function. What is important to do is to slow down or reverse the process by treating the malfunctioning disc that leads to the bodies need to stabilize the bone with more calcium. Non-surgical spinal decompression can help to rehydrate a disc, improve its function, and remove the bodies need to lay down more calcium which leads to bone spurs.