Do you have bone spurs? Find out what your pain means—in a few painless clicks.
What are Bone Spurs?
The human body is constantly renewing itself, and our bones are no different. As adults, our bodies stop growing in size; but similar to nails and hair, our bones continue to change and grow. One element of this growth is the appearance of bone spurs—small bumps or protrusions that develop on the surface of bones. Bone spurs are common. Most of the time, we never know that bone spurs have grown, because we don’t feel any discomfort. But occasionally, bone spurs do cause symptoms.
Studies have suggested that bone spurs grow because of skeletal distress. There are two medical names for bone spurs: enthesophytes and osteophytes. Enthesophytes grow in spaces where tendons or ligaments attach to the inside of a bone. These bone spurs may form due to injury, friction, or inflammatory disease. Osteophytes grow on the ends of bones due to friction and are related to osteoarthritis. Similar to pilling on fabric, bone spur growth is gradual. Although bone spurs grow throughout the skeletal system, we tend to notice them only when symptoms occur. Some of the aches and pains we generally associate with aging are actually due to bone spurs irritating soft tissue and bone.
Although we often hear about bone spurs in the heels of the feet or related to arthritis of the hands and joints, bone spurs occur in the neck and spine as well. When a doctor is diagnosing spinal pain, bone spurs are one of the causes that he or she considers. However, just because bone spurs are evident doesn’t mean that they are the cause of your back pain. Bone spurs can be present in the spine without causing any symptoms.
Bone spurs are rounded, not pointed as the name suggests, and are common in adults ages 60 and older as part of the aging process. Our spinal bones, or vertebrae, degenerate over our lifetimes. This degeneration can be exacerbated by hereditary issues, injuries, poor nutrition, and lifestyle. Fortunately, engaging in regular exercise, developing good eating habits, and undergoing routine visits to your physician can help you to maintain optimal spine health.
Are you experiencing excruciating pain from bone spurs in the neck or back? Dr. Frazier—surgical technology consultant, accomplished researcher, and board certified spine expert—uses gentle therapies and minimally invasive techniques to eliminate bone spur discomfort!
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What are the Symptoms of Bone Spurs?
Bone spurs are a symptom of normal degeneration of the bones, resulting in rounded bumps or protrusions appearing on the surface of the bone. They typically appear in areas of the bones that are stressed or exposed to friction. Osteoarthritis is the most common name for the aches and pains caused by spinal bone spurs. Symptoms can range from person to person; however, patient complaints may include:
- Back Pain: Pain in the back that is aggravated by standing, walking, or sitting
- Activity-Specific Pain: Pain that is exacerbated by movement and improved with rest
- Pinched Nerve Pain: Pain that radiates from the site of spinal nerve impingement—where bone spurs jut outward to compress nerve roots—and diffuses into other regions of the body
- Sciatica: Singeing pain that commences in the lower back–where the sciatic nerve radiates outward from the lumbar spine—and filters downward from the buttocks to the soles of the feet
- Cervical Radiculopathy: Burning pain that erupts from pinched nerves in the neck and migrates on a downward tract through the shoulders, biceps, and fingertips
- Pins-and-Needles Sensations: Tingling or numbness in the arms and legs
- Progressive Weakness: Weakening of the arms and legs over time that interferes with the execution of everyday activities, such as gripping a pencil (fine motor control) or coordinating movements of your extremities (gross motor control)
- Emergency Symptoms: Seek emergency medical services if your pain becomes incapacitating; you experience sudden paralysis of your arms or legs; or you develop bowel or bladder incontinence – Although these side effects are rare, without prompt intervention, severe nerve compression can lead to permanent paralysis
Because each of the symptoms above can be caused by conditions other than bone spurs, it is important to seek diagnosis from a trained medical professional. For instance, poor circulation, diabetes, and spinal fractures, tumors, or infections can mimic the warning signs of bone spurs. Other conditions that can cause similar aches and pains are back strain and muscle fatigue, general arthritis, rheumatism, and disc ruptures with nerve compression. Need to get to the bottom of neck and back pain? Dr. Frazier, NYC and New Jersey Spine expert, has nearly 20 years of diagnostic experience in resolving bone spur pain!
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What are the Treatments for Bone Spurs?
Depending upon the cause and severity of your bone spurs, your doctor may prescribe a vast array of non-surgical treatments that are proven to deliver effective pain relief. These noninvasive methods may include: periodic rest or immobilization of the affected areas; medications (such as muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory drugs); rehabilitative therapies (such as physical therapy, chiropractic intervention, or gentle yoga); or cortisone injections that soothe nerve (i.e. radicular) pain.
Where non-surgical methods fail to provide adequate pain relief, minimally invasive spine surgery can be used to extract bone spurs and eliminate their related symptoms. If you require surgery, our board certified spine surgeon, Dr. Frazier, may recommend:
- Lumbar Laminectomy: A lumbar laminectomy is a minimally invasive decompression procedure in which your surgeon removes the posterior portion of an affected vertebra. Removal of this bony casing—known as the lamina—relieves pressure on the spinal cord caused by bone spurs, scar tissue, and/or ossified ligaments.
- Endoscopic Foraminotomy: An endoscopic foraminotomy is an outpatient or same-day procedure in which your surgeon uses video-assisted technology to visualize bone spurs that have developed on the foramen—a tiny opening that allows spinal nerves to pass through our vertebrae. This procedure relies upon a guiding tube and tiny incision to ensure that bone spurs are removed with minimal destruction to the surrounding tissues.
Discussing your treatment plan with a qualified professional is critical to select the best bone spur treatment for you. Dr. Frazier’s extensive experience as an orthopedic spine surgeon is beneficial as you discuss your symptoms, diagnosis and treatment with him. With a vast assortment of treatments from which to choose, Dr. Frazier can help you determine which treatment options are best for you. Dr. Frazier strives to connect every patient with minimally invasive surgical opportunities that affect their busy lifestyles as minimally as possible.
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Dr. Frazier is a Harvard-trained, board certified orthopedic spine surgeon. He’s held an academic appointment at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York’s SUNY Downstate. Dr. Frazier is also a respected lecturer, accomplished researcher, published author on spine disorders and treatment, and a consultant for several international spine companies.
After completing his undergraduate education at Brown University, Dr. Frazier attended Harvard Medical School, where he graduated cum laude. He completed a Harvard internship based at the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston, MA, followed by a Harvard combined residency before becoming chief resident at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Education & Training
MD / Cum Laude
Harvard Medical School
Mass. General Hospital
Spinal Deformity Fellowship
Doctor’s Hospital (Miami, FL)