Many patients are told that they have bone spurs in their back or neck, with the implication that the bone spurs are the cause of their back pain. However, bone spurs in and of themselves are simply an indication that there are increased forces on the joints of the spine that cause remodeling of the bone over time. In many cases, the formation of bone spurs and other degenerative changes may be considered a normal process of aging, and the presence of bone spurs does not necessarily mean that they are the actual cause of the patient's back pain.
There are a number of common spinal conditions that are related to the development of bone spurs, including osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis. These conditions are often associated with neck and back pain, and when bone spurs press on spinal nerves and other tissues this can lead to symptom exacerbation.
The diagnosis of bone spurs can be made easily with simple x-rays. Other imaging modalities, such as MRI and CT also show bone spurs and can assess the surrounding nerves and soft tissues that may be compressed from a focal bone spur.
Most patients with mild or moderate nerve compression and irritation from bone spurs can manage their symptoms effectively with non-operative back care, such as rest, medications, physical therapy, manual therapy, injection therapy, etc. If these treatments do not alleviate teh symptoms then surgical intervention may be considered.
Figure 1: Bone Spurs in Lumbar Spine Figure 2: Bone Spurs in Neck