There is a wide range of possible treatment options for symptomatic bone spurs in the spine.
Non-Surgical Treatment for Bone Spurs
Most patients with mild or moderate nerve compression and irritation from bone spurs can manage their symptoms effectively with nonoperative back care, such as:
Short period of rest
Activity may flare up inflammation in the joints, thus a short period of rest is initially appropriate.
After 1-2 weeks, physical therapy, exercise and chiropractic adjustment often alleviates the painful joint conditions. These modalities attempt to restore flexibility and strength to the neck and back, improving posture and possibly decreasing the compression on the nerves. However, nerve compression with radiating pain into an arm and leg should be clinically investigated before beginning any form of rehabilitation therapies.
Cortisone (epidural steroid) injections have potential therapeutic value for some patients with facet joint inflammation by reducing the joint swelling and improving spinal pain and radiating extremity pain syndromes. The results are usually only temporary, but repeat injections maybe indicated. Pain relief from an injection may allow the patient to progress with rehabilitation.
Spine specialist consultation is appropriate if these nonsurgical measures to treat bone spurs fail. Early referral is appropriate if patients suffer from severe pain or there is clinical evidence of nerve compression and damage.
Spine Surgery for Bone Spurs
Surgery (such as a laminectomy) is designed to relieve the pain and neurological symptoms by removing the bone spurs and thickened ligaments causing painful nerve compression. The majority of patients who undergo surgery for bone spurs experience good results, often gaining years of relief and improved quality of life.
- For more information, see Lumbar Laminectomy Surgery for Spinal Stenosis (Open Decompression).
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Studies have shown that age is not a major factor in determining whether a person will benefit from spine surgery for bone spurs. However, medical conditions often associated with age, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease can influence surgical risks and slow the recovery processes, and thus should be taken into account when deciding on surgery.
Spine surgery for bone spurs becomes necessary if nerve or spinal cord compression is either causing unremitting pain or motor loss is documented on examination. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of the various approaches to spine surgery with one’s surgical consultant to understand all potential factors as they pertain to one’s individual situation.