Bone Spurs or Ostheophytes
Bone spurs, or osteophytes, where bone grows around joints are generally associated with the normal aging process — the spine changes with age. Bone spurs can also develop as a result of certain conditions of the spine, usually spinal osteoarthritis or degenerating discs.
Spinal Osteoarthritis and Bone spurs
Osteoarthritis of the spine occurs with degeneration of any bony portion of the vertebral column, generally at the facet joints.
Each vertebra has two sets of facets located behind the spine. These facets meet the facets of the vertebrae that lie above and below, forming facet joints. The facets move against each other during spinal movement.
These faces are usually covered by smooth cartilage, so they can slide over each other. When the protective layer of cartilage is lost, osteoarthritis of the spine will develop.
Spinal osteoarthritis causes:
Joint interface bone-to-bone friction
Extra pressure on the spinal joints
Experts believe that these bone spurs may be the body's natural way of:
Redistributes weight to a larger surface, protecting bones
Reduce range of motion, thereby preventing movements that can cause bone stress
Spinal osteoarthritis most commonly affects the neck and lower back. This can cause stiffness, pain, and other symptoms. Symptoms are usually worse in the morning, improve after moving, and then worsen again towards the end of the day.
Spinal osteoarthritis has many possible underlying causes.
Degenerative Disc Disease and Bone spurs
Degenerative disc disease is wear and tear on the intervertebral discs. Discs act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae, helping to protect them during movement and support weight. Each disc has a hard, flexible outer layer and a soft gel-like center (nucleus pulposus). When a disc is damaged, the vertebra above and below it will rub against each other.
How do degenerated discs cause bone spurs?
Degenerated discs may cause spinal instability, and the instability tends to lead to a type of bone spur called enthesophytes.
Enthesis is a piece of connective tissue that attaches to other soft tissues, such as ligaments to bone.
As the intervertebral disc material slowly wears out, the nearby ligaments that hold the vertebrae together loosen. The spine loses stability.
Instability puts extra pressure on the ligaments, causing them to become inflamed. This section can also naturally thicken to reduce excess movement and regain stability.
Inflammation occurs at enthesis.
Inflammation of the enthesis affects the growth of the vertebral bodies. Vertebral bone cells that grow in the wrong place, causing tissue enthesis and become calcified.
These calcifications form bone spurs.
Enthesophytes are not just the result of disc degeneration, it can be caused by injury, chronic stress, or disease that causes the soft tissues to become inflamed.
It is important to note that degenerating discs can lead to osteoarthritis. The spine is a complex structure of bones and soft tissues, injury or degeneration in one area can have a certain effect.
The only way to find out the cause of back pain is to get an accurate diagnosis.