Bone Spurs Overview
Over our lives, bone spurs (small, irregular bone growths also called osteophytes) may form on the facet joints and around the spinal vertebrae. Bone spurs typically grow in response to bone-on-bone friction in the spine. How does this friction occur? As arthritis develops and the joint surface cartilage erodes, the ends of facet joints are exposed and begin to rub directly against one another, and bone spurs form. Bone spurs also may develop as the soft discs located between the vertebrae become thin and collapse with age. Spaces between the vertebrae narrow, and eventually, adjacent vertebrae may rub together, causing bone spurs to form along the edges of the vertebrae.
Bone spurs are a natural response to joint instability – essentially, they are the body's attempt to help return stability to the joint. Yet, while bone spurs might be intended to improve joint stability, this enlargement of the normal bony structure actually indicates degeneration of the spine.
Bone spurs are a normal part of the aging process and do not necessarily cause pain. However, they may become so large that they cause irritation or compression of nerves passing through spinal structures. This narrowing of nerve passageways in the spinal column is a condition known as spinal stenosis.