You may have a bone spur and not even know it, especially if you’re over age 50. Sometimes these little growths cause pain when you move, sometimes they go unnoticed for years, and sometimes symptoms occur and you don’t even realize they could stem from a bone spur.
Sciatica is one of those tricky symptoms that can crop up for a number of different reasons. At Peninsula RSI Chiropractic Wellness Center, Dr. Dana Robinson and our team see the effects of bone spurs on the sciatic nerve often, so we know how to diagnose and treat it. Here’s a closer look at bone spurs and how they can affect your lower back.
Bone spurs 101
Your spine, like every other part of your body, undergoes a lot of changes as you age, and many of those changes are due to degeneration. Spinal osteoarthritis, a classic age-related degenerative condition, occurs when the joints in your spine lose their slippery protective layer of cartilage, and your bones rub against one another.
All this rubbing causes the development of bone spurs, technically called osteophytes. The term “bone spur” is a bit misleading since most people think of spurs as sharp, pointy spikes. Osteophytes are actually smooth, rounded growths.
Osteoarthritis isn’t the only thing that causes bone spurs. Degenerative disc disease, where the cushiony shock absorbers between your vertebrae give way, also leads to bare-bone rubbing and the development of bone spurs.
Bone spurs can show up in any bone tissue, but it’s quite common in the spine — especially the neck and lower back region.
If you develop bone spurs in your lumbar (lower back) region, it can cause inflammation, friction, and narrowing of the spine, called spinal stenosis.
How bone spurs affect your nerves
Bone spurs take time to develop and become large enough to bother you, but when they do, you can trace the pain back to your nerves. Here’s why.
Your spinal column is a hub of nerve activity. Each vertebra has two facet joints and small openings called foramina that act as gateways for your nerves, which pass in and out of your spine with very little room to spare. Bone spurs encroach on the space and impinge the nerves, which naturally causes pain and numbness.
If this occurs in your neck, you may feel the symptoms in your neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. In your lower back, it’s called sciatica.
Bone spurs and your sciatic nerve
Your sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body — it starts in your lower back and travels through your buttocks, then down the length of each leg, branching off at your knees and continuing down to your ankles.
A lumbar bone spur that compresses your sciatic nerve can generate symptoms anywhere along the length of the nerve. You may feel:
- Dull, achy back when you walk or stand
- Leg weakness
- Pain, tingling, or numbness that radiates through your buttocks
A good clue that you may be suffering from a bone spur in your lower spine is that you get relief from your symptoms when you bend forward.
Relief from bone spur-related sciatica
If you have lumbar bone spurs causing sciatica, Dr. Robinson can help. In most cases, you can improve your sciatica symptoms by reducing the inflammation caused by your bone spurs. To accomplish this, Dr. Robinson may recommend rest and ice.
After you’ve gained some improvement, physical therapy and exercise can keep you flexible, strengthen your spine, and improve your posture so you can avoid nerve compression.
If your bone spurs are caused by or have created a misalignment in your spine, Dr. Robinson may recommend chiropractic care to manipulate your vertebrae into proper alignment that relieves painful nerve pressure.
Massage therapy is another way to reduce inflammation and promote healing in the area.
If you have sciatic nerve pain, whether it’s caused by bone spurs or another condition, Dr. Robinson can relieve your symptoms and help you heal. To schedule an appointment, call our office in Redwood City, California, or book your visit online.