Occasional or short-term discomfort in the neck area is usually linked to tense or irritated muscles, tendons, or ligaments. If you’re having persistent neck pain, it’s time to find out what’s really going on. Cervical bone spurs (osteophytes) are one possible cause of chronic or recurring neck pain. These overgrowths that develop along the edges of spinal bones are usually the result of age-related wear or degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis. Let’s discuss how you can tell if your neck-related pain is caused by bone spurs and what can be done about it if you do.
Signs and Symptoms
It’s possible to have a bone spur in your neck that causes little or no discomfort. If this isn’t the case, you may notice an aching or dull pain in your neck that becomes more prominent with certain neck, head, or shoulder movements. Some bone spurs are located in a spot along cervical vertebrae that’s close to the neck muscles responsible for rotation, lateral flexion, or hyperextension. The resulting muscle irritation may produce muscle spasms or cramping. Some other signs and symptoms that may suggest you have cervical bone spurs include:
• Stiffness and reduced neck mobility
• Headaches that are primarily felt on the sides or back of the head, behind the eyes, or on top of the head (due to nerve root pressure)
• Shock-like pain relegated to one side that may extend to a nearby shoulder or arm (cervical radiculopathy)
• Arm/hand numbness and/or a loss of balance and coordination related to bone spurs pressing on the spinal cord (cervical myelopathy)
• Difficulty breathing or swallowing and/or loss of bladder/bowel functions*
*Severe cervical bone spur symptoms of this nature are rare, but if they do occur, immediate medical attention should be sought.
Diagnosing Neck Pain from Bone Spurs
Diagnosis of cervical bone spurs may involve results from a physical exam, a review of your medical history, and a discussion of your symptoms. An X-ray is typically taken to get a clear view of the bones of the cervical spine. A CT scan or MRI may also be performed so supporting soft tissues can also be evaluated. Additionally, the condition of muscle and nerve cells in the neck might be tested with an electromyography or nerve conduction study.
Treating Cervical Bone Spurs
Barring serious or potentially life-threatening symptoms, treatment for cervical bone spurs usually starts with conservative (non-surgical) options. Such efforts typically include resting the neck for a few days, modifying activities by avoiding strenuous or exaggerated neck movements, using over-the-counter or prescription pain or anti-inflammatory medications, and engaging in various forms of physical therapy specific to the neck (e.g., therapeutic neck exercises or stretches).
Additional treatment options include minimally invasive neck surgery. Beverly Hills patients may experience relief from one or more of the following:
• Improved head, neck, and upper back posture and alignment
• Acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, and other holistic therapies
• Surgical removal of part of the vertebral arch (laminectomy) to create more nerve space
• Removal of a disc that was damaged by bone spurs combined with fusion surgery to restore cervical spine stability (anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, or ACDF)
• Cutting a bone near the spine (lamina) so it hinges open and gives the spinal cord more room (posterior cervical laminoplasty)
Because cervical bone spurs are often linked to degenerative conditions, the best way to reduce your risk of developing these bony overgrowths is to get into the habit of being good to your spine on a daily basis. Pay attention to your posture, avoid sugary snacks, refined carbs, and other foods that contribute to inflammation, maintain a healthy weight, and minimize repetitive neck movements as much as possible.
Neck pain may be due to one or more various causes, including cervical bone spurs. If you recognize any of the symptoms listed above or your neck pain is severe or prolonged, make sure to schedule a consultation with a Beverly Hills spine surgeon right away. The experienced spine specialists at The Spine Institute can diagnose your pain and offer the latest cutting-edge treatments for a variety of back and neck issues. Call our friendly staff today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.