As we age, our bodies change and adapt to natural wear and tear, injuries and various medical conditions. Bone spurs are one of the common issues experienced by adults 60 years of age and older. Over time, bone spurs can develop anywhere in the body, including the neck. The medical term for these neck bone spurs is cervical osteophytes. While bone spurs aren’t always a cause for concern, they can become symptomatic.
Bone spurs in the neck can cause pain and neurological symptoms that can interfere with your daily routine or lifestyle if they become too severe. While treatment might not be necessary for everyone, it may help relieve noticeable symptoms caused by bone spurs.
Symptoms of Bone Spurs in the Neck
Depending on how developed a bone spur is, you may experience symptoms including:
- A noticeable lump upon touch
- Chronic dull neck pain and achiness
- Swelling or tenderness
- Stiffness and loss of range of motion
- Radiating pain from the bottom of the neck up to the head
- Numbness or tingling (may extend to the arms or hands)
- Muscle spasms or cramping
- Balance or coordination issues
Cervical osteophytes share similar symptoms with other degenerative conditions such as spinal stenosis. It’s important to speak with a doctor or spine surgeon about any symptoms you might be experiencing.
Why Do Bone Spurs Develop?
Although bone spurs could be perceived as detrimental to your health, they are a normal part of your body’s natural aging process. As the protective cartilage in the spine breaks down over time, it exposes the bones to grinding and inflammation. Bone spurs develop to compensate for any structural changes of the joints due to wear and tear or degenerative spine conditions like osteoarthritis (OA).
Deposits of calcium form slowly over the damaged area — reinforcing and strengthening it. This process is what creates bone spurs throughout the body.
What Can Cause Bone Spurs in the Neck?
Other than degenerative conditions like OA or arthritis of the neck (known as cervical spondylitis), some risk factors and causes of bone spurs in the neck may include:
- Family history or genetics
- Sports injuries
- Car accidents or whiplash injuries
- Overuse injuries (i.e., desk jobs)
- Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) spine
How Are Bone Spurs Diagnosed?
It’s not uncommon for a person to continue their daily life without experiencing any symptoms from bone spurs. Some patients only find out about bone spurs after they appear on an MRI or X-ray.
The steps a doctor may follow when diagnosing the cause of symptoms may include:
- Gather information about your symptoms, personal habits and medical history
- Perform a physical examination to test your range of motion and detect potential muscle weakness
- Order further diagnostic testing to confirm the presence of bone spurs in your neck (i.e., CT scans, MRIs or X-rays)
- Request blood work to rule out any underlying diseases that may be responsible for your symptoms
Can You Treat Bone Spurs in the Neck?
Your overall condition and the severity of your symptoms will influence the type of treatment a doctor may recommend for your bone spurs.
If your case is considered mild, you will likely find relief for your bone spur symptoms by trying one or more of the following treatment options:
- Warm or cold compresses to reduce inflammation and manage pain
- Rest the area by avoiding all strenuous activity or sudden neck movements
- Corticosteroid injections to block pain signals
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol), over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Physical therapy or massage therapy to improve blood flow, reduce pain and increase range of motion
More severe cases might require surgical intervention if the body doesn’t respond to medications or natural remedies. If you’ve tried various non-surgical treatments, consult with a doctor about other methods for alleviating your symptoms.
Seek Treatment for Your Neck Pain in Atlanta
If an MRI revealed bone spurs in your neck and your symptoms are no longer tolerable, AllSpine Laser and Surgery Center may be able to help. We provide thorough medical exams and advanced treatment techniques. Our orthopedic specialists offer both non-surgical and surgical treatments to help relieve your pain and treat your symptoms.
Schedule an appointment at one of our five locations in Atlanta by giving us a call at (770) 997-0600.