What to Expect from a Bone Spur in Your Back

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What to Expect from a Bone Spur in Your Back

  1. 1. What to Expect from a Bone Spur in Your Back<br />
  2. 2. What to Expect from a Bone Spur in Your Back<br /> If you suffer from a bone spur in your back, it can be extremely helpful to have a firm understanding of the causes, symptoms, and treatments associated with this frustrating condition. As your doctor will likely explain, bone spurs are interesting because they can be caused a number of ways, and treatment for this condition depends on a number of extenuating factors, such as the location and cause of the bone spur. This is why it is always important to do your homework, speak with specialists, and make sure that you are armed with the information you need to effectively manage your bone spurs.<br />
  3. 3. Osteophytes<br /> Bone spurs (also known as osteophytes) are smooth growths of bone that are naturally formed by the body as a result of injury, perceived loss of bone density, or direct bone-on-bone contact. In many ways, bone spurs are largely misunderstood because of their name. When a patient hears that they have a bone spur in their back, they often imagine large barb-like protrusions of bone, when in fact, an osteophyte is normally nothing more than a smooth, small extension of the body’s natural bone structure.<br /> In the spine, the formation of osteophytes often accompanies arthritic deterioration of the vertebral joints and nowhere is this more common than in the lumbar region of the spine in the lower back. Normally, the five vertebrae that comprise the lumbar spine are the strongest, largest vertebrae in the spinal column. These bones are responsible for supporting the majority of the body’s weight and also allow for the bending, twisting, flexion, and extension that is expected from the lower back. Vertebral facet joints interconnect adjacent vertebrae and are covered with a smooth coating of cartilage that allows the bones to articulate against one another comfortably. However, over time, this cartilage can gradually begin to wear away as a result of years of use. When this happens, bone-on-bone contact may start to develop and osteophytes can be naturally formed by the body as a defense mechanism.<br /> The thing to remember about bone spurs, though, is that these protrusions are not inherently symptomatic. Merely having a bone spur in your back is normally not enough to cause symptoms. A bone spur becomes problematic when the growth of bone comes in contact with other bone, soft tissue, or a nerve in the spinal column. Additionally, because bone spurs typically develop gradually over time, the symptoms of a bone spur may slowly worsen as irritation and inflammation increase.<br />
  4. 4. The Symptoms of a Bone Spur<br /> While most people are quick to associate a bone spur with localized (or focal) pain near the bone spur itself, this condition can actually cause a variety of symptoms depending on the cause, severity, and location of the bone spur. Symptoms are often at their worst early in the morning or after prolonged periods of inactivity where the back stiffens up. Yet as time passes on, many people begin to experience chronic pain as a result of their condition. Additionally, a bone spur in the back can cause a wide variety of symptoms when the osteophyte results in the compression of a nerve within the spinal column. Among the most common symptoms of nerve compression in the lower back are:<br />Sciatic pain (sciatica)<br />Numbness and tingling<br />Muscle weakness or fatigue<br />Diminished reflexes<br />A feeling of pins-and-needles in the feet or toes<br />A sensation of heat<br />Stiffness<br />
  5. 5. Causes of Bone Spurs<br /> The natural deterioration of the vertebral joints is an extremely common cause of a number of degenerative spine conditions, such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and spinal arthritis, but bone spurs can also be caused a number of different ways. For example, bone spurs often develop as a direct result of trauma to the vertebrae in the lower back. Athletes are particularly prone to bone spurs because small stress fractures to the vertebrae can develop as a result of prolonged participation in high-impact sports such as football or hockey. Osteophytes may also eventually develop as a result of a long-since healed injury.<br />
  6. 6. Causes of Bone Spurs<br /> Additionally, there are a number of risk factors that can exacerbate spinal deterioration and increase the likelihood of developing bone spurs later in life. Some examples include:<br />Obesity – In addition to the significant heart and lung problems that are frequently associated with being overweight, obesity also can lead to back problems because of the extra burden placed on the spine from supporting excess body fat.<br />Poor posture – Improper spinal alignment puts added stress on the anatomical components of the spine and can accelerate deterioration. Proper alignment should be maintained while sitting, standing, and even sleeping.<br />Tobacco use – Some of the ingredients in tobacco impede the intervertebral discs’ ability to absorb nutrients, which can result in dehydration and deterioration.<br />Inactivity – Leading an inactive, sedentary lifestyle can also take its toll on the spine because the muscles and ligaments that support the back can gradually weaken, which increases the strain on the spine.<br />
  7. 7. Treatment Options<br /> When someone is initially diagnosed with a bone spur in their back, the first question most people have is about their treatment options. While there are a number of treatment options currently on the market, it is always essential that you involve your doctor in developing a treatment plan that affords you the best chance of overcoming your symptoms. Treatment options vary widely from patient to patient depending on the cause of the bone spur in the back, the extent and severity of the symptoms, the patient’s age and health, and a number of other factors.<br /> It is important to remember that there is no cure for bone spurs. These growths cannot be dissolved or cured, short of physically removing them from the spine. That being said, not everyone who is diagnosed with a bone spur is resigned to surgical treatment. In fact, there are a variety of conservative, noninvasive treatments currently available – each with their own marked advantages. The goal of conservative treatment is not to focus on the bone spur itself, but rather remove strain from the affected region of the spine to mitigate symptoms.<br /> Conservative treatment is also usually a product of trial and error and the continuous use of a number of techniques. Treatment is generally seen as a gradual process, where lasting, instantaneous relief is rarely experienced. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heat therapy, stretching techniques, low-impact exercises, and rest are all common examples of noninvasive treatment. Corticosteroid injections are also quite popular for individuals who are looking for lasting, albeit short-term pain relief.<br />
  8. 8. Surgical Options<br /> In some instances, the only viable treatment option for a bone spur in the back is spine surgery. Some individuals turn to open spine surgery in the form of spinal fusion to permanently stabilize and immobilize the affected region of the spine. This surgery is highly invasive and requires the patient to sacrifice some spinal flexibility, but it also can relive the chronic pain that has come from uncomfortable joint movement. Alternatively, many patients turn to an endoscopic procedure that is less invasive and can be conducted on an outpatient basis. The goal of this type of procedure is to carefully clean the joint of degenerative debris and deaden the nerve within the joint to remove the body’s ability to recognize pain in the region. <br /> To learn more about the various bone spur treatments available for you back, contact your doctor and don’t be afraid to receive second and third opinions from specialists.<br />

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