Osteophyte Formation in Cervical Spine: Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis
What is Osteophyte Formation in Cervical Spine?
Osteophyte formation in the cervical spine, also known as a cervical bone spur, occurs in the spinal vertebrae of the neck. An osteophyte or bone spur is a bony outgrowth that the body itself produces in response to a worn out and weakened spine. However, such bone spur actually creates more problems instead of helping the spine. The problems occur because of the impinging of the foramina, which are the open spaces on each side of the vertebrae through which the spinal cord passes.
What are the Symptoms of Osteophyte Formation in the Cervical Spine?
Osteophytes, in common, are known not to cause problems, but when it presses against the spinal cord, in the cervical spine, it causes painful symptoms like-
- The patient of osteophyte with osteophyte formation in cervical spine may experience a form of pain that stays localized in the neck.
- The patient of osteophyte may complain of tingling sensation in the neck and arms.
- Experience of pain characterized by throbbing or burning in the neck.
- The patient may complain of pain beginning in the neck which travels through the shoulder followed by in the hands and arms.
- The patient of might find an audible sound of a bone grinding against another bone in the neck region commonly termed as crepitus.
- Patient with osteophyte formation in cervical spine may have a joint lockage which may be quite spontaneous.
How are Cervical Osteophytes Diagnosed?
Once the patient with osteophyte formation in cervical spine comes to the doctor with possible symptoms, the following of the diagnostic procedures may be opted-
- MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging - A Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan is capable of showing the detailed cross sections of the bones and tissues. It does not use radiation & works better than CT-scans and X-rays to diagnose issues in soft tissues. Thus, Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans can be used to detect osteophyte formation in cervical spine.
- Electrodiagnostic testing- This exam for osteophyte is a form of nerve conduction study that can test the nerve's electrical activities in the arms. Following this, another exam called the electromyogram is carried out to test the electrical activities of the muscles. Such exams can help determine the location of the osteophyte formation in cervical spine.
- A somatosensory evoked potential may help in determining if the spinal cord has been impinged. Such exams are comparatively less common.
Treatment of Osteophyte Formation in Cervical Spine
Cervical osteophytes usually do not need surgery. The symptoms can be reduced by the following methods-
- Activity modification- The doctor may prescribe rest for a day or two along with limiting strenuous activities for patients with osteophyte formation in cervical spine. At times the doctor advises for a better posture position. Such may include sitting up straighter instead of hunching over a desk for hours. Taking frequent breaks from long hours of work may also be a form of relief.
- Physiotherapy- Sometimes physiotherapists are asked to design some form of exercise and stretching routine which may help the patient improve the neck strength and flexibility. This may help reduce the pain caused by osteophyte formation in cervical spine.
- Ice and /or heat compress- Cooling and/or warming the neck area with ice or/and heated gel pack may help relieve the pain in some patients.
- Injections and medication- Sometimes anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants can provide relief. When medications alone cannot provide relief the doctor may use directly inject some form of medicine near the bone spur to reduce the inflammation & numb the pain.
- Manual manipulation- Sometimes the patient is referred to a chiropractor or an osteopathic physician or even any other related but qualified health professional to manually adjust the cervical spine & this is done to reduce the pain & improve flexibility. It should be noted that sometimes manual manipulation may be a part of physiotherapy.