Understanding Lumbar Osteophytes (Bone Spurs)

Osteophytes, more commonly referred to as bone spurs, may occur on the joints of your lower spine in response to degenerative changes in your spine. Our video walk through can help you better understand this common condition.

Lumbar osteophytes video Lumbar osteophytes, or bone spurs, are smooth growths that form on the joints in the lower back as a result of degenerative changes to the spine. Watch: Lumbar Osteophytes (Bone Spurs) Video
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The image below shows a disc (in red) as it's degenerating, or breaking down.

See What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Lumbar osteophytes are bone spurs that grow in the low back due to degenerative changes.

As a disc degenerates, it enables excess movement between your joints.

See Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)

When bone spurs form in the foramina of the lumbar spine, it may impinge on a nerve.

Your body responds to this excess movement by producing bony growths on your joints.

See Common Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease

Degeneration of the lumbar spine (and the development of lumbar osteophytes) can occur as a result of aging.

Above is another image of a spinal disc degenerating. The white dots in the picture are proteins that are released as your spine degenerates. It's important to note that spinal degeneration is a normal part of the aging process, but factors like poor posture, a traumatic injury, or improper nutrition can accelerate the process. Spinal osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis are two examples of degenerative diseases that can also cause bone spurs to form.

See Bone Spur Causes

In spite of their name, bone spurs are actually smooth growths that don't always cause pain. However, they compress the nerves in the lumbar spine.

The above image pictures two bone spurs located on the facet joints. Bone spurs are typically smooth, and they don't always cause pain. But, in rare cases, bone spurs can provoke neurological symptoms if they press against the nerves in your lower back.

See Facet Joint Disorders and Back Pain

Painful bone spurs can form in the foramina, the small hole through which nerve roots exit the spine.

If bone spurs form near the small holes through which nerve roots exit your spine, called foramina (pictured above), they are more likely to cause pain.

When a bone spur impinges on a nerve in the lumbar spine, it can cause radiating pain, weakness, tingling, and numbness in the legs and feet.

Bone spurs can lead to a variety of symptoms. For example, if a bone spur impinges on a nerve root in your lumbar spine it may cause pain, weakness, or tingling that radiates down your leg. As a general rule, pain from bone spurs usually worsens with activity and improves with rest.

See Leg Pain and Numbness: What Might These Symptoms Mean?

Remember that symptoms from bone spurs mimic the symptoms from many other conditions, so it's important to consult with your doctor if you suspect your pain and stiffness may be the result of bone spurs.

See Diagnosis of Bone Spurs

Learn more:

Treatment Options for Bone Spurs

Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosis

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