Neurosurgery, Spine Surgery

April 23, 2015

My Doctor Told Me My Back Pain Is from Bone Spurs – What Does That Mean?


Bone spurs do not necessarily lead to lower back pain, but they are a common cause of it. With proper care and treatment for bone spurs, you can relieve your pain and regain movement.

Bone spurs, or osteophytes, are bony growths that can develop on the spine due to wear and age. They are actually smooth in structure, and their appearance in your X-ray or MRI indicates a common form of degeneration. If your doctor has diagnosed you with bone spurs, you have several treatment options that can successfully relieve your lower back pain.

Where Do Bone Spurs Come From?
Bone spurs are formed from the natural wear and tear to the bones, discs, and ligaments of your spine due to age or injury. The discs that act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae of the spine slowly wear away with time, causing excess movement between vertebrae. The ligaments that connect and strengthen the bones of the spine become thicker in an attempt to correct this looseness between the vertebrae and in the joints of the spine.

Eventually this extra ligament material begins to calcify and bone spurs develop, causing pain when they come in contact with the nerves travelling along your spinal cord. Lower back pain from bone spurs usually doesn’t develop until after the age of 60, but factors such as heredity, bad posture, poor nutrition, and injury can significantly speed up the process of spinal degeneration and the development of potentially painful bone spurs.

How Bone Spurs Are Diagnosed
To determine whether you have bone spurs, your doctor will look for the following common symptoms:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pain, tingling, and weakness in the arms and legs
  • Headaches
  • Loss of range of movement
  • Bladder and bowel incontinence (in rare cases)

Because these symptoms are similar to those of arthritis and back strains, proper diagnosis will involve a thorough examination and complete assessment of your symptoms to determine whether bone spurs are the cause of your lower back pain. Several types of diagnostic tests are commonly performed to identify these growths, including X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. Your doctor may also perform electroconductive tests such as an EMG or NCV. Each of these tests gives your physician a different picture of the condition and composition of your spine, including any damage and the presence of bone spurs. It’s important to rule out all other possible causes of the lower back pain before a treatment plan can be suggested.

Treatment Options for Bone Spurs
You can effectively treat your lower back pain from bone spurs using a variety of pain management options such as medication, physical therapy, and steroid injections.

A non-surgical treatment plan will usually include massage therapy and physical therapy to restore flexibility and strength and decrease pressure on spinal nerves. After two weeks, you should be able to notice a difference. If you experience flare – ups, try alternating applications of heat and cold to your lower back and resting. Pain medications can also be prescribed, along with muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory medicines, for 4-to-6 weeks

Your physician might also prescribe epidural steroid injections to further reduce swelling and inflammation. Relief from these treatments is temporary, but repeating these treatment options can reduce your pain for long periods of time

If these procedures prove to be ineffective, you should consult a neurosurgeon about your treatment options. If your diagnosis is causing unstoppable back pain and hindering your quality of life, you should consider undergoing a laminectomy to remove the bone spurs. This will permanently remove the growths and relieve the nerve compression that is causing your pain

With the widespread availability of modern medical treatment, there are many options to relieve your lower back pain. To learn more about the options available for treating bone spurs in your back, call Arkansas Surgical Hospital at (877) 918-7020to set up a consultation.

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