Bone spurs in your spine go by several different names; osteophytes, degenerative joint disease, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, or spinal decay.
Even though we think of a “spur” being a painful condition, it often does not cause any pain.
What bone spurs represent are the length of time that your spine has been misaligned and stuck. Under normal conditions, each spinal segment should move and function in order to be considered normal. When the spine moves like it was designed, these calcium deposits (bone spurs) do not form. When the spine is not functioning normal, the spurs begin to form.
The process is long. A spur will not and cannot pop up over night. They take years to form and should be considered irreversible. The process is painless, so you won’t know that a spur is forming via a pain symptom. We often see patients that are only complaining of back stiffness and it’s only upon x-ray examination that we learn how far their bone spurs have developed.
Are bone spurs due to age?
Osteophytes indicate age of the problem, not age of the person. We’ve seen spurs in people in their early 30s, and no spurs in people in their 60s. If a spinal joint moves out of alignment and becomes stuck, the clock starts ticking. It may take several years before the first indicator, a roughened edge on the vertebra, begins to show up.
Somewhere around 3 – 5 years following the start of the spur, you can actually see it on x-ray and recognize it as a bony osteophyte. With each passing year, we see spinal degeneration and the associated bone spurs show up in younger and younger patients.
This is a troubling trend and appears to the result of additional time spent on smart devices and the additional strain on the spinal joints. Maintaining motion and avoiding problems due to bad posture will go a long way in decreasing the likelihood of bone spurs forming.
If bone spurs don’t hurt, why are they a problem?
As the degenerative process continues, it becomes harder to help. The disc, which acts as a spacer for the nerve between vertebrae, become more rigid and decreases in height. This decrease in height makes the nerve’s opening smaller, and more likely to create pressure on the nerve.
Since nerves control everything in our entire body, making sure they are able to function at their best is key to good health. When the degeneration becomes bad enough, you may start to notice nerve pain or weakness in your arms or legs. Weakness could indicate the nerve changes are becoming permanent and need to be addressed right away.
The surgical option is that they will grind away bone to make room for the nerve to come out without being impinged upon. They also may create space by fusing the affected vertebrae in a way that provides more of an opening for the nerve.
How can chiropractic help bone spurs?
The foundational reason bone spurs form in the spine is a lack of movement. Each joint segment should be able to move and function as designed. Chiropractic care locates the spinal segments that are not working they way they should. Your chiropractor will find these vertebrae, adjust them, and restore their normal movement.
The restoration of movement will not reverse spinal degeneration, but it can stop the process from continuing and help you restore normal range of motion and avoid surgery. This is the argument to continue chiropractic care even after the pain has gone away. Continued maintenance of the proper movement in spinal joints will help decrease the speed of the development of bone spurs if not halting that process altogether.