What Is The Treatment For Spinal Bone Spurs?

Tissues throughout the body experience natural changes as we age – including bone tissue. Bone spurs are a possible complication of osteoarthritis, which occurs when the cartilage in the joints deteriorates with age. 

Spinal bone spurs are highly common among older individuals. While they’re not painful on their own, spinal bone spurs can irritate neighboring tissue, leading to a range of symptoms. 

Thankfully, patients now have more treatment options than ever for spinal bone spurs. Continue reading to learn about these treatments and how you can attain relief from spinal bone spur symptoms. 

What Are Spinal Bone Spurs?

A bone spur is a smooth lump of excess bone that develops on the edge of a regular bone, such as the facet joints of the spine. Most commonly, bone spurs occur in individuals over the age of 60. 

What Are The Most Common Spinal Bone Spurs Causes?

As we’ve already mentioned, bone spurs in the spinal column most commonly result from osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is widely referred to as wear and tear arthritis, as it leads to the degeneration of joint cartilage over time. When the cartilage breaks down, the increased friction in the joint can lead to bone spur formation. 

Certain factors can increase your risk of developing spinal bone spurs, including:

  • Poor posture
  • Structural spinal issues
  • Sports injuries
  • Traumatic accident-related injuries (such as car accident injuries)
  • Genetic factors
  • Poor nutrition

Bone Spurs and Spinal Stenosis

Spinal bone spurs and spinal stenosis are often closely linked. Bone spurs can cause or contribute to spinal stenosis, which is an unnatural narrowing of the spinal canal. 

Spinal stenosis bone spurs can place pressure on spinal nerves and/or the spinal cord. As a result, patients may experience neurological symptoms including:

  • Back pain
  • Sciatica (nerve pain that radiates from the lower back through the buttocks and into the legs)
  • Weakness, numbness, and/or tingling in the legs and feet (for lumbar spinal stenosis)

How Serious Are Bone Spurs On The Spine?

Bone spurs on the spine are very common and not considered a dangerous condition. However, if the spurs irritate nearby tissues and nerves, they can cause painful symptoms that may worsen with time. Patients experiencing symptoms from spinal bone spurs should receive prompt medical care to prevent worsening pain. 

How To Treat Spinal Bone Spurs

What Is The Best Treatment For Bone Spurs?

Spinal bone spur treatment may be surgical or non-surgical. The majority of patients don’t need surgery to make a full recovery from spinal bone spurs.  

Non-surgical treatment for spinal bone spurs can include:

  • Physical therapy

Physical therapy is one of the main non-surgical treatments available for spinal bone spurs. Through exercises, hands-on manipulation, and lifestyle recommendations, your physical therapist can help relieve pressure on the spinal nerves caused by bone spurs. 

  • Chiropractic care

Chiropractors specialize in spinal manipulation and other methods of alleviating pain by improving the alignment of the spine. A chiropractor can help you overcome symptoms of a spinal bone spur with a range of non-invasive techniques. 

  • Weight loss

Excess weight places added pressure on the spine. So, by reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, it’s possible to reduce the stress on irritated spinal nerves. This can promote healing and reduce pain from bone spurs. 

  • Pain medications

Over-the-counter pain medications can help patients manage pain and other symptoms of spinal bone spurs. Most often, physicians recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, or NSAIDs, such as Advil and Aleve. In more severe cases, physicians may prescribe stronger pain medications or muscle relaxants.  

Exercises for Spinal Bone Spurs

Exercises for spinal bone spurs can help alleviate pain, discomfort, and stiffness. Your physical therapist may recommend specific exercises to help resolve your symptoms, such as:

  • Child’s pose

The child’s pose involves kneeling on the floor with the toes together and the knees approximately hip distance apart. Once in this position, slowly bend the torso forward so that it rests between your knees, extending your arms forward with the palms facing down. In this position, more space opens up in the spine, which relieves pressure on the irritated spinal nerves. 

  • Lower back twist

To complete a lower back twist, lie flat on your back. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor and put your arms out in a T position. Then, move both knees to one side while keeping the shoulders flat on the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then switch sides. 

  • Cat/cow

During this exercise, begin on your hands and knees. Both your hands and knees should be hip-width apart. Then, gently round your back, bringing the back of your spine as close to the ceiling as possible, and hold this position for five seconds. Next, gently arch the back, bringing the stomach towards the floor, and hold the position for five seconds.    

Are Bone Spurs On The Spine Common?

Bone spurs are very common among older individuals. Over 40% of people who develop bone spurs with symptoms will require medical treatment. 

Can Bone Spurs Be Treated Without Surgery?

Physicians generally have patients undergo several months of non-invasive treatment before recommending surgery for bone spurs. However, if patients don’t notice a significant improvement in their symptoms after this approach, surgery may be required. 

What Does Spinal Bone Spur Surgery Involve?

Spinal bone spur surgery typically includes spinal decompression. There are multiple approaches to spinal decompression for bone spurs, the most common of which include bone spur removal and laminectomy. 

Bone spur removal involves surgically removing the bone spurs from the vertebrae. This effectively alleviates bone spur symptoms. Unfortunately, bone spurs can return over time, which is why your surgeon may recommend a different treatment route. 

Laminectomy involves removing some of the laminae to create more space for the spinal cord. This form of spinal decompression gives the nerves space to heal and can resolve symptoms of bone spurs. 

Conventionally, spinal fusion is performed with spinal decompression to prevent instability. 

How Successful is Bone Spur Surgery?

The success rate for spinal decompression surgery has been estimated at around 70% to 90%. Bone spur surgery is widely recognized as a safe, effective procedure for patients struggling with bone spur symptoms. 

How Long is Recovery From Bone Spur Surgery?

The recovery from bone spur surgery depends on whether or not spinal fusion is performed. Alone, spinal decompression surgery for bone spurs involves a recovery period of between two and six weeks. You can likely return to light physical activity about three to four weeks after the procedure. 

If spinal fusion is performed along with decompression, the recovery period will be longer. Patients generally need four to six weeks to return to a desk job after fusion, and three months or more to return to physical activity. 

Can You Walk After Bone Spur Surgery?

After spinal decompression surgery, doctors generally recommend that you stand and walk for short periods to promote healing. However, your ability to walk may be limited during your hospital stay after the procedure, which can be four days or more after spinal fusion. 

Medical advancements have led to spinal fusion alternatives that allow you to walk soon after bone spur surgery. One of these innovations is the TOPS System, a spinal implant that can improve outcomes for patients with spinal stenosis bone spurs. 

If you’re suffering from debilitating bone spur symptoms, talk to your doctor about the range of treatment options available today.