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Bone Spurs

Introduction

Bone spurs are generally considered as Osteophytes. Osteophytes are irregular bone growths that occur in the vertebrae. It develops because of several reasons and one of the most common cause is friction that occurs within joints. When it experiences this kind of stress, the body tries to repair itself by creating more calcium deposits or bone. It attempts to strengthen the bones to counter the friction it is experiencing. These calcium deposits are bone spurs. The new bone can have a different form and structure compared to the original one. Eventually, these irregular bone growths become large enough to affect nearby tissues which can result to excruciating symptoms.

Bone Spurs can develop anywhere in the body, the vertebrae in the spine included. When these bone spurs develop in the spine, some of them become large enough to cause compression of nearby spinal nerve root and column. This compression results to varying symptoms.

Unlike what is implied in the name however, bone spurs are not actually sharp. Rather, they are smooth rounded bone growths. They can develop anteriorly or posteriorly. Posterior osteophytes are bone growths that developed near the back of the spine and can lead to Stenosis – gradual narrowing of the spinal canal. Anterior osteophytes are bone growths that develop in the front of the spine. They usually occur in the cervical region and is commonly caused by aging.

Causes

The most common cause for bone spurs is the natural process of aging. It’s the natural scheme of our bodies that its parts will slowly deteriorate. This includes the spine. When discs, or cartilage within the joints start to degenerate, bone-on-bone contact may happen between vertebral bones and joints. This eventually results to bone spurs. This is most common in disc degeneration, joint degeneration and spinal osteoarthritis diseases.

However, although aging is the most common and likely cause for bone spurs, other factors can also lead to its development. The following are examples of these:

 

Injuries which are especially common in high-impact sports can lead to bone spurs. For example, bone fractures can cause bone spurs to occur in the affected region to make up for lack in bone density in that specific area.

Unhealthy pound can affect overall heath, including the spine. The spine is responsible for support of the body’s weight. Increased weight can increase pressure placed on the spine which can quicken the deterioration process of the spine and result to bone spurs eventually.

One of the most common cause of bone spurs in friction in the joints. Friction in the facet joints are triggered by viral infections that can also trigger the growth of bone spurs.

If a patient has a medical history in the family of degenerative spine diseases then they are more likely to develop bone spurs as they grow old.

Symptoms

Usually, symptoms do not show until the bone spurs have affected a nearby spinal nerve root or the spinal column, because the spine is part of the central nervous system that controls the feeling and movement of the body, hence it is a highly innervated area. Once compression on the spinal nerve occurs, it can result to painful symptoms in various parts of the body.

Symptoms will vary depending on the location of the bone spur in the spine and the severity of the condition. The following are examples of different parts of the body that may experience symptoms depending on the region affected:

  • Cervical Spine

When the bone spur occurs in the cervical region of the spine, the following areas may be affected:

  • Neck
  • Shoulder
  • Upper back
  • Arms
  • Thoracic Spine

When the bone spurs occurs in the thoracic region of the spine, the following areas may be affected:

  • Middle back
  • Torso
  • Ribs
  • Internal organs
  • Lumbar Spine

When the bone spurs occurs in the lumbar region of the spine, the following areas may be affected:

  • Lower back
  • Hips
  • Buttocks
  • Legs

The following symptoms may be experienced in those areas that are affected:

  • Crepitus

This refers to the painful feeling of bone rubbing against bone caused by the irregular bone formation.

  • Local Pain

This refers to the throbbing or painful point in the affected joint area.

  • Numbness

This refers to loss of feeling or sensation.

  • Stiffness

This refers to the feeling joints locked.

  • Traveling Pain

This refers to pain that starts in the joints then moves to other extremities in the body.

Risks

The main cause for bone spur development is the natural process of aging. Obviously, this is an inevitable occurrence for our bodies that as a person grows old, their bodies deteriorate. However, there are other factors that can increase the risks of developing bone spurs. The following are examples of risk factors where some can be avoided in order to reduce the chances of having bone spurs it the spine:

When discs degenerate due to a variety of reasons, it is possible to expose the vertebrae that lies on either sides of the disc to each other. Thus, this causes bone-on-bone contact that eventually leads to irregular bone formation.

Genetics

If a person has a family history of degenerative spine diseases, this increases the risk of developing bone spurs in the spine.

Poor posture

Poor posture increases the risk for other degenerative spine diseases that could potentially cause the disc to thin or collapse. Therefore exposing the vertebrae on either side of the discs and result to irregular bone formation.

Poor Nutrition

Poor eating habits can contribute to unhealthy weight gain. This can cause degenerative spine conditions to occur. Once that happens, bone spurs may follow

Medical history of Injury

Patients who have sustained injury such as compression fracture have a higher likelihood to develop a bone spur overtime.

Smoking

Smoking releases toxins in the body that can stop the spine and its components from receiving the necessary nutrients to keep it healthy. With an already deteriorating spine, – due to the natural process of aging – it could potentially cause the cartilage to wear out faster and causes bone-on-bone contact of vertebrae to vertebrae.

Weak Core Muscles

Having weak core muscles can contribute to degenerating spine conditions. Once the normal wear and tear causes the thin layer of cartilage to finally give out, then bone spurs may develop as these bones rub against each other causing irregular bone formation.

 

A bone spur cannot go away but the pain can be managed

Bone Spurs can be hidden for years and the symptoms can go undetected for a long time

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