Many patients are told that they have bone spurs, or osteophytes, in their back or neck. Bone spurs are simply an indication that there are increased forces on the joints of the spine. In response to this over time, the body remodels bone. In many cases, bone spurs and other degenerative changes may be considered a normal process of aging. The presence of bone spurs alone does not necessarily mean that they are the actual cause of pain.
There are a number of common spinal conditions associated with neck and back pain that are related to the development of bone spurs, including osteoarthritis, cervical radiculopathy, lumbar radiculopathy, and spinal stenosis. The diagnosis of bone spurs can be easily made with x-rays. Other imaging modalities, such as MRI and CT scan, show bone spurs and can assess surrounding nerves and soft tissues. Most patients with mild or moderate nerve compression from bone spurs can manage their symptoms effectively with non-operative back care including: rest, activity modification, physical and manual therapy, medications, and injection therapy. If these treatments do not alleviate symptoms surgical intervention may be considered.