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Bone Spurs On Spine

After several years of back pain and countless chiropractors and physical therpists i finally got around to getting an MRI. What it says is that i have bone spurs on the anterior side of my spine, i think where the lower vertebrae join. Part of the diagnosis reads:

“Mild facet joint arthropathic changes are evident at all lumbar levels bilaterally.”

The doc said the bone spurs are at these facet joint and surgery is not an option. Apparently what the bone spurs do is irritate the surrounding muscle, hence my back pain. No wonder stretching and all the other chripractic stuff did not work.

The doc said the only real two solutions are physical therapy and a muscle relaxer. I asked him what the PT would involve since i had been to see alot of chiro’s already. He said they would basically work to strengthen the surrounding muscles, like the abs and lower back. Even though i can do this myself i may check the therapy out. Can’t hurt, and my insurance covers most of it.

Anyone else have an experience with something similar? While i am glad its not serious i am dissapointed its not something fixable. This back pain has been, well, a pain. Its sore getting up in the morning, makes practicing Brazillian juijitsu hard at times, and chronically hurts most of the time, except when i am laying down.


There are two main types of “spurs” involving the spine.

You can indeed have spurring of the facet joints which are located posteriorly. This is basically a sign of arthritis in the facet joints. These bone spurs can poke into the neural foramen which is where the nerves exit the spinal canal and proceed to their destination. So this kind of bone spur can affect the spinal nerves as the leave the spinal canal.

Much more common are anterior or lateral osteophytes. These generally arise from the anterior side of the vertebral body, or sometimes laterally. These do not affect the exiting nerves as they are relatively far away from the spinal canal and the neural foramina. However, they are a sign of degenerative disc disease which leads to weakened discs. This can lead to bulging of the discs or herniations of the discs which would affect the nerves.

From your report, you have both. The anterior spurs are the degenerative disc disease osteophytes which are a sign of degenerative disc disease. The athropathic changes of the facet joints are different and reflect arthritis in the facet joints.

I can tell you that the anterior spurs are very common. I seen them commonly in the thoracic spine on chest xrays, even in people in their 20s and 30s. Obviously, they are more common and larger in older people. You can get them anywhere in the spine. Like I said, they do not affect the nerves directly, but are a sign of degenerative disc disease, sometimes called spondylosis (not to be confused with spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis which are different.)

Finally, don’t make too much of a connection between the imaging findings and your symptoms. I see many badly degenerated spines in older people who have little symptoms. OTOH, I see young patients with very small disc herniations who have big symptoms. So, just because you seen these abnormalities on the MRI or xrays, does not necessarily mean that they are causing your symptoms.