What are Causes of Back Bone Spurs?

Eric Stolze
Eric Stolze
An MRI scan may be performed to diagnose back bone spurs.
An MRI scan may be performed to diagnose back bone spurs.

Back bone spurs, or osteophytes of the back, are small, bony projections that grow outward from the vertebrae of a patient’s spine. Osteoarthritis is a common cause of bone spurs of the back and other spurs and typically causes these bony growths to develop around arthritic joints. Other causes of back bone spurs include diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis and spinal stenosis. Bone spurs may also develop on their own as a result of the aging process. These bony projections can grow in some older people who do not have medical conditions that are generally associated with bone spurs.

Medications may be prescribed to alleviate discomfort associated with back bone spurs.
Medications may be prescribed to alleviate discomfort associated with back bone spurs.

Osteoarthritis is a disease that causes degeneration of a person’s joints from the wearing down of cartilage. Some people develop osteoarthritis in the back and may experience pain, stiffness and a loss of flexibility as well as back bone spur growth. Doctors typically diagnose this condition with the help of imaging tests such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans as well as laboratory tests that may include joint fluid analysis and blood tests. Osteoarthritis is usually not curable, but doctors may prescribe medications to relieve pain and aid joint movement, such as anti-inflammatory drugs or painkillers.

A picture of a healthy spine and one with bone spurs.
A picture of a healthy spine and one with bone spurs.

Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis, or DISH, is a medical condition that can cause parts of ligaments to harden or calcify. The hardened ligaments may form bone spurs near the points where the ligaments connect with bones. DISH that occurs in the back can result in a stiff back as well as back pain and a loss of lateral motion. People with DISH may receive anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroid injections to treat pain and inflammation, or they may undergo physical therapy to improve movement and flexibility. In some cases, physicians decide to surgically remove large bone spurs in order to relieve excessive pressure on a patient’s spinal cord.

Back bone spurs can sometimes be a result of the aging process and not necessarily related to any other medical condition.
Back bone spurs can sometimes be a result of the aging process and not necessarily related to any other medical condition.

Spinal stenosis is a medical disorder that causes narrowing of segments of a person’s spine for a variety of reasons including the presence of arthritis, a herniated disk or spinal injuries. Back bone spurs can also develop with some cases of spinal stenosis. This condition may cause numbness and pain in the back, legs or shoulders. Some doctors treat pain from spinal stenosis with steroid injections or other medications. People with this condition may need to have their back bone spurs surgically removed in some instances.

Back bone spurs can be diagnosed with the help of an X-ray.
Back bone spurs can be diagnosed with the help of an X-ray.

Bone spurs can break off from attached bones and may float loosely in the fluid of a joint. Some floating bone spurs embed themselves in the lining of a joint. These loose spurs of bone can drift into portions of a joint, where they tend to cause intermittent locking and restrict joint movement. Joint-locking may lessen or disappear when loose bone spurs float out of the moving part of a joint.

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    • An MRI scan may be performed to diagnose back bone spurs.
      An MRI scan may be performed to diagnose back bone spurs.
    • Medications may be prescribed to alleviate discomfort associated with back bone spurs.
      Medications may be prescribed to alleviate discomfort associated with back bone spurs.
    • A picture of a healthy spine and one with bone spurs.
      A picture of a healthy spine and one with bone spurs.
    • Back bone spurs can sometimes be a result of the aging process and not necessarily related to any other medical condition.
      Back bone spurs can sometimes be a result of the aging process and not necessarily related to any other medical condition.
    • Back bone spurs can be diagnosed with the help of an X-ray.
      Back bone spurs can be diagnosed with the help of an X-ray.
    • Osteoarthritis may cause back bone spurs.
      Osteoarthritis may cause back bone spurs.