Bone Spur in the Neck Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Bone Spur in the Neck – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments For those suffering from a bone spur in their neck, it can be extremely helpful to gather as much information as possible to better understand their condition. Bone spurs in the neck can cause a variety of frustrating symptoms, but by knowing what caused the growth and what treatment options offer you the best chance of overcoming your pain, managing this condition without surgery is normally feasible.
Bone Spurs Explained A bone spur, also commonly known as an osteophyte, is a smooth extrusion of bone that can grow anywhere in the body. These protrusions are typically created by the body as a natural response to perceived loss of joint stability or diminished bone density, which is why they frequently accompany osteoarthritis – a degenerative condition that affects weight-bearing joints throughout the body. In the spine, bone spurs are commonly seen in and around the vertebral facet joints. These joints connect adjacent vertebrae, providing much-needed spinal stability, while also allowing the full range of motion that we require from our backs and necks. However, over the years, these facet joints are also subject to arthritic deterioration thanks in part to the significant weight burden placed on the joints, as well as the wear and tear that comes from regular use. Eventually, the cartilage that coats the facet joints can wear away, causing bone-on-bone contact (also known as crepitus), and subsequent bone spur formation. This condition is quite common in the neck because these small vertebrae support the weight of the skull and allow for the pivoting ability of the neck. However, it is also important to understand that a bone spur in the neck is not inherently symptomatic in and of itself. When a bone spur comes in contact with other bone, soft tissue, a spinal nerve, or the spinal cord, a variety of different symptoms may be experienced.
Bone Spur Symptoms While a bone spur in the neck can and often does go completely undetected, this condition can also cause a number of potentially debilitating symptoms throughout the upper body. Some of the most common symptoms include: Local pain Numbness and tingling A stiff or sore neck Muscle spasms Headaches Pain that radiates through the upper body A feeling of pins-and-needles or heat While pain from a bone spur is most frequently experienced near the bone spur itself, symptoms can also be transferred or “referred” throughout the arms, shoulders, hands, and fingers when a nerve becomes compressed in the cervical spine. This phenomenon can make diagnosing a bone spur difficult because symptoms are experienced so far away from the source of the discomfort. Numbness in the fingertips, for example, may not seem like a cervical spine problem, which is why it’s so important to report any and all symptoms, no matter their location, to your doctor prior to diagnosis.
Diagnosing a Bone Spur It is extremely important to have a doctor diagnose your bone spur. While many treatment options exist for this condition, self-diagnosis is never recommended because a number of other degenerative spine conditions include similar symptoms as bone spurs. Treatment options for a herniated or bulging disc, foraminal or spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and other cervical spine conditions vary, so having a confident diagnosis of the cause of your pain is absolutely vital. So how is a bone spur in the neck diagnosed? The first step in the diagnostic process is for the doctor to review the patient’s medical history. The doctor will ask the patient a series of questions about their condition, symptoms, daily activity, and medical background. The goal of this process is to get a better understanding of the patient’s condition and begin to develop the framework for a diagnosis. Even the smallest details can prove vital. For example, arthritic pain tends to be worse in the mornings or after prolonged periods of inactivity. Additionally, the doctor may inquire into the patient’s family medical history, because many degenerative conditions, including osteoarthritis, tend to be genetic. Next, the doctor will test the patient’s range of motion and reflexes, and also apply pressure along the spine to attempt to pinpoint the source of the patient’s pain. This physical examination may be somewhat uncomfortable but it also provides valuable information to the doctor. Finally, an X-ray, MRI or, CT scan may be recommended to identify the location of the bone spur and subsequent nerve compression, as well as clearly identity the cause of the bone spur formation.
Treatment Options One of the inherent problems with bone spurs is that these growths are permanent. This is to say there is no treatment, short of surgery, that can shrink or remove the actual growth. However, there are a number of conservative techniques currently available that have proven to be effective methods of alleviating the symptoms associated with a bone spur. The trick is finding the right combination of treatments and having realistic expectations for the treatment process. In general terms, the goal of bone spur treatment is to remove strain from the region of the neck that is affected by the bone spur and also manage the patient’s pain. While treatment options vary from patient to patient depending on a number of factors such as the cause of the bone spur, the severity of the symptoms, the patient’s age and overall health, and current medications, most are first treated with a series of noninvasive, conservative techniques.
Treatment Options Common conservative treatments include: The use of over-the-counter or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or pain medications The application of heat or ice Low-impact exercises Physical therapy and strength training Stretching techniques, such as yoga or Pilates Limited rest Additionally, a number of lifestyle changes may be recommended, depending on the patient. In some instances, the doctor may recommend quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, improving posture, and avoiding activities that increase the likelihood of developing a bone spur, such as participating in high-impact sports or careers that require frequent bending, twisting, and lifting.
Surgical Options In some instances, the only real option for patients suffering from a bone spur in their neck is to undergo spine surgery. However, thanks to recent advances in modern medicine, there are several treatment options to consider – each with their own notable advantages and disadvantages. Spinal fusion, for example, is often recommended for advanced cases or when spinal stability is at risk. During this procedure, the affected region of the spine is permanently immobilized as to remove the source of the patient’s pain. This is a highly invasive surgery and requires months of rehabilitation to regain full strength, but it can be an effective way of treating an arthritic joint. There are also less invasive treatments that entail the cleaning of the deteriorated joint and deadening the nearby nerve to remove the body’s ability to register pain in the region. These treatments are popular because they don’t require hospitalization and there is less chance for post-operative complications such as infection, scar tissue buildup, and failed back surgery syndrome. To learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments associated with a bone spur in the neck, visit your doctor or spine specialist today.