An osteophyte is a medical term used for a bone spur, which can grow anywhere in the body, and are often not cause for alarm. Although the word spur implies a sharp edge formation, in reality, they are actually smooth, scalloped growths along the edge of the bone that occur over time due to aging or injury.
What Causes Bone Spurs?
Osteoarthritis and other degenerative conditions are the primary reason bone spurs develop. Trauma due to a sports or auto accident can also contribute to the development of bone spurs. Most bone spurs cause no symptoms and may go undetected for years. They may not require treatment. Decisions about treatment depend on where spurs are situated and how they affect your health.
Bone Spur Symptoms
Symptoms of bone spurs can widely vary depending on the location and may include stiffness, localized or radiating pain, weakness and headaches.
Bone Spurs in the neck, or Cervical Osteophytes
Bone Spurs in the neck, or Cervical Osteophytes can cause pain in the neck area. Pain, numbness and weakness can also be experienced in the shoulders, arms and hands. If a bone spur places pressure on the spinal cord in the neck, it can affect gait and balance.
Bone Spurs in the back, or Lumbar Osteophytes
Bone Spurs in the back, or Lumbar Osteophytes can cause pain in the lower back along with numbness, tingling or weakness which may radiate down into the legs and feet.
The MISI Approach to treating Bone Spurs
Treatment for bone spurs depends on the symptoms. There are a multitude of conservative treatments your physician will try first, such as exercise, stretching, hot or cold packs, anti-inflammatory medication and/or physical therapy. If these treatments fail to alleviate the pain, your physician may feel surgery is needed. In this case, depending on the severity and location, several outpatient minimally invasive procedures can be considered.
Dr. Bryce Benbow has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.