Most of us do not think of bone as a living substance – we think of dry Halloween skeletons and cow skulls in the desert.
Yet bones inside the body are fully alive. They contain blood vessels and constantly create new blood cells, build new bone, and tear down old bone.
Unfortunately, misbehaving bones may produce spurs that can cause various problems, including sciatica.
What Is a Bone Spur?
Bones occasionally develop small offshoots that become bony projections. Also called osteophytes, bone spurs commonly appear along bone edges and inside of joints. Spurs themselves do not cause any signs or symptoms and are usually harmless.
Unfortunately, they tend to project into areas where they apply pressure or rub against muscles, tendons, nerves, and other soft tissues.
How Do These Spurs Relate to Sciatica?
Those who suffer from sciatica know full well that it is a type of pain that radiates from the lower back, down through buttocks and hips, and into the legs. It follows the path of the sciatic nerve.
Although sciatica may be triggered by different problems, bone spurs are a common cause. They can grow from spinal vertebrae and unfortunately extend far enough to pinch the sciatic nerve. Spurs also commonly narrow the opening within the vertebrae through which the spinal cord extends.
As the spur compresses the nerve, it may result in tingling, leg weakness, sharp pain, or a numb sensation in the legs.
Why Do They Appear?
These pesky overgrowths may form as a result of:
Osteoarthritis Joint Damage
The spinal column is a series of flexibly moving bones, each of which touches another. Osteoarthritis tends to destroy helpful cartilage that cushions the ends of those bones, and the body reacts by growing bony spurs in those areas.
Natural Joint Wear and Tear
Those who develop bone spurs are often over the age of 60, and simple wear on the joints over many years may encourage these spiny projections to form.
Other Risk Factors
According to Cedars-Sinai, additional causes include:
- Disc and joint degeneration
- Poor posture
How Can Sciatica Bone Spurs Be Treated?
Your physician will most likely diagnose them using some type of test or imaging:
- Electroconductive tests
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computed tomography scans
In rare cases, bone spurs may simply disappear on their own, but other options include:
- Surgery to simply remove the spur and end its interference with the sciatic nerve
- Surgery to fuse two vertebrae together for support
- Injections of steroid medication to reduce swelling and pain
- NSAID medications to decrease pain, swelling, and help with muscle relaxation
- Physical therapy to manipulate joints may boost strength, flexibility, and posture to reduce pressure on the nerve
Bone spurs are a painful cause of sciatica. Contact us to find answers to questions and receive helpful, expert advice regarding treatment options tailored to your needs.