Bone Spur Surgery<br />right365760Bone spur surgery is occasionally required when all other more-conservative treatments fail to provide the patient with the pain relief they require over the course of several weeks and months. Unfortunately, there is no single “cure” for a bone spur; these smooth growths of bone are permanent and cannot be removed from the spinal column without surgical intervention. Yet, this doesn’t mean that everyone who develops a spinal bone spur must consent to surgery – not by a long shot. In fact, most individuals are able to mitigate the symptoms of a painful bone spur with a carefully planned course of treatment that relieves strain from the spine and is intended to manage the patient’s symptoms.<br />Osteophytes<br />The name “bone spur” is a bit of a misnomer in that these growths actually are smooth protrusions of bone, rather than sharp or jagged. Formed by the body as a natural response to bone-on-bone contact and a decrease in bone density, bone spurs are intended to re-stabilize the spine. However, in practice a bone spur (also known as an osteophyte) is normally a completely irrelevant growth that develops near the spinal joints as a result of osteoarthritis and can go undetected for years. This is because the actual osteophyte itself is not symptomatic. Instead, when an individual is diagnosed with a bone spur, they are usually being diagnosed with symptoms that develop as a result of the bone spur coming into contact with another part of the spinal anatomy. Should the osteophyte compress a spinal nerve, the spinal cord, another bone, or any soft tissue within the spinal column, a variety of symptoms may be experienced. <br />What Causes Bone Spurs to Develop in the Spinal Column?<br />One of the leading causes of bone spurs is the natural aging process – something that obviously cannot be avoided. The vertebrae that comprise the spinal column are connected at vertebral joints known as the facet joints. These hinge-like structures allow for the full range of motion that we require from our backs and necks, but also stabilize the spinal column, which allows us to walk upright and support the weight of our bodies. Each joint is coated in cartilage and encapsulated in a lubricating fluid, which allows the joints to articulate comfortably against one another. Over the years, as a result of regular wear and tear, this cartilage can slowly begin to wear away, eventually causing the vertebrae to grind against one another. This deterioration happens to everyone and can explain the loss of flexibility and mobility that comes with age, in addition to the regular aches and pains that many of us experience later in life. However, when osteoarthritis and vertebral degeneration is severe, bone spurs are often created, which may lead to pain, difficulty moving, weakness, and other similar symptoms.<br />In addition to the natural aging process, bone spurs are also frequently created in the aftermath of a traumatic injury to the spine or repeated damage as a result of participation in high-impact sports such as hockey or football.<br />Diagnosing a Bone Spur<br />Prior to scheduling bone spur surgery or any other treatment, the first step that needs to be taken is to discover the root cause and location of the bone spur. As the symptoms of bone spurs can be explained by a number of other conditions, namely a herniated or bulging disc, spondylolisthesis, ligament calcification, and less-serious injuries, it is absolutely essential to have a doctor diagnose the source of your pain.<br />Diagnosing a bone spur begins with a comprehensive review of the patient’s medical history. The doctor will ask specific questions about the patient’s symptoms, including:<br />
When did your symptoms start?
Are they worsening?
Can you trace your pain to a particular event?
Have any treatments seemed to help?
Are symptoms better/worse at a particular time of day?
Describe your symptoms in detail.
leftcenterAdditionally, the doctor will likely ask questions about the patient’s family medical history because osteoarthritis is thought to have a link to hereditary factors.<br />Next, the patient should prepare for a full physical examination, during which the doctor will test range of motion and apply pressure near the spine to locate the origin of the patient’s symptoms. This process can cause the patient some discomfort but provides valuable information about their condition. Finally, the patient should expect to need an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. An X-ray is effective because it can show the presence of bone spurs, while an MRI or CT scan can illustrate nerve compression clearly.<br />Conservative Treatment<br />While the growth of a bone spur is a permanent phenomenon, there are a number of nonsurgical treatments that can be effective for alleviating the symptoms. In most cases, when an individual has been diagnosed with a bone spur, the doctor will first attempt to manage the patient’s symptoms with a series of noninvasive, conservative treatments. The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, epidural injections, physical therapy, stretching techniques, and the application of heat or ice are particularly popular treatments as they can alleviate strain on the spine, reduce swelling, strengthen the supporting muscles around the affected region of the back or neck, and maintain or improve flexibility.<br />Bone Spur Surgery<br />Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of osteophytes is that in some cases, conservative treatment simply is not effective and the patient’s only real course of action is bone spur surgery. With recent advances in modern medicine, surgery may be attempted a variety of different ways, depending on the extent of the patient’s spinal degeneration, the specific cause of the growths of bone spurs, and the patient’s overall health and lifestyle.<br />right775335In some instances, open spine surgeries, such as laminectomies or spinal fusion, are called for. During a laminectomy, a portion of the lamina – a piece of bone that sheathes the spinal canal, is carefully removed to alleviate nerve compression. Spinal fusion, on the other hand, requires the excision of an intervertebral disc and the installation of a bone graft and stabilizing hardware to permanently immobilize the affected region of the spine. Bone spurs are carefully removed when possible and painful movement is no longer possible, effectively alleviating the patient’s pain.<br />These types of surgeries have distinct advantages and are the only treatment option available in some instances where spinal stability is at risk. But they also come with notable drawbacks, namely the risk for post-operative complications and the requirement of several weeks or months of rehabilitation to regain full strength.<br />In some instances, bone spur surgery can be attempted endoscopically as an alternative to open spine surgery. These minimally invasive, outpatient procedures are effective because they allow the orthopedic surgeon to access the problematic area of the spine, clear the joint of debris and deaden the nerve within the joint to remove the patient’s ability to detect pain in the spine. With proper physical therapy, mobility can be maintained or even improved in the spine, which is a significant advantage of this type of procedure.<br />To learn about the various bone spur surgeries available and to determine which treatment is best for your condition, speak with your doctor or a spine specialist today.<br />