In this free educational guide on bone spurs of the spine, we provide you with a general discussion about this severe medical condition, and review what evidence or tests are needed to help prove that you are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
For your general knowledge about this medical condition, we have included in this guide helpful information about what the disease is, symptoms, diagnosis, common treatment, and where you can find more help and information for this medical condition. This guide may also provide information about current legal issues that may be of value to you. This guide is not intended as legal advice or as a legal opinion.
After reading this guide, if you still have questions or would like to discuss your case with us, please call Chad Brown Law at (800) 556-9115. We are here to help you get the benefits you deserve.
1. What are bone spurs of the spine?
Also called osteophytes, bone spurs are bony growths that develops along the edges of bones of the spine. These spurs are often caused by osteoarthritis and are associated with wear and tear on your spinal bones and joints over time (aging process), or possibly begin with an injury.
Most bone spurs cause no symptoms and require no treatment. Of course, like any other medical condition, decisions on treating bone spurs depends upon where they are located and the effect the symptoms have on your health.
2. Common Medical Terms Associated with Bone Spurs
Back problems and injuries – Back injuries are a common cause of pain in any area of the back. They often result from work-related tasks, recreational activities, or even the normal aging process.
Neck problems and injuries – Minor neck problems are not uncommon. Symptoms may stem from the aging process, overuse of the neck muscles, or an injury.
Nerve root compression – Also known as compression neuropathy or entrapment neuropathy, this is a medical condition stemming from pressure placed on a nerve, such as from a bone spur.
3. Common Symptoms and Complications of Bone Spurs
In some cases, bone spurs cause pain and loss of motion in the spine and can narrow the space containing your spinal cord. These spurs can pinch the spinal cord or nerve roots causing pain and loss of nerve function; pain in the back, arms or legs and even loss of bowel and bladder function in severe cases; and other weakness and numbness.
You should seek treatment by a doctor whenever these symptoms begin, which may enable the slowing and progression of all of these symptoms.
4. How are bone spurs diagnosed?
Imaging tests (X-ray, CT scan, or MRI) along with medical history and physical exam can help diagnose this issue. If nerve damage is suspected (bladder or bowel affected or loss of use of leg), the type of imaging will be the more advanced imaging testing (CT or MRI). Doctors sometimes also do an electromyogram (EMG), which is an electrical test that may help determine the exact nerves involved.
5. What are common treatments for bone spurs?
Pain management: Conservative treatment will usually be first. Ice or heat and acetaminophen (Tylenol or similar) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (naproxen or ibuprofen) will generally be tried first. Stronger medicines may be prescribed.
Physical therapy and exercises for strengthening and stretching the back: If you develop spinal stenosis, a herniated disc, bone spurs or osteoarthritis, you may need this beginning treatment.
Surgery: If pain or nerve function loss is intolerable, surgery may be considered. The most common type of surgery to treat lower back (lumbar) bone spurs is a decompression laminectomy. A decompression laminectomy relieves pressure (decompresses) on the nerve roots of the spine. This type of surgery may also be done to treat other types of spinal pain such as acute spinal injuries, herniated discs, or tumors of the spine. After a decompression laminectomy, many patients feel a significant reduction in the pressure in their spine, allowing them to resume most normal daily activities.
In a laminectomy surgery, the surgeon removes small fragments of the vertebrae bones and in some cases thickened tissue around the spinal canal. Opening the spinal canal and shaving away some of the bone in the spinal column is what helps reduce the pressure on the spinal roots and cord. Small incisions in the back near the site of the patient’s back pain are necessary to perform this operation.
Spinal fusion: Another common type of surgery to repair bone spurs is spinal fusion, otherwise known as arthrodesis. Spinal fusion is often done in conjunction with a laminectomy and is considered a major surgery that can last several hours.
6. Bone Spurs – What has to be proven for you to be considered disabled by Social Security?
The complete medical listing for bone spurs is found in the medical listing for Disorders of the Spine, listing 1.04 on this Social Security Administration website and is printed below for discussion:
If you do not “meet” this listing, you may still be considered disabled if you are not able to do past relevant work, or you are not able to do any other work that you may have the education or experience to do.)
6a. Social Security’s Rules for Bone Spurs
Social Security’s rules for disorders of the spine (bone spurs):
“1.04 Disorders of the spine (e.g., herniated nucleus pulposus, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis, vertebral fracture), resulting in compromise of a nerve root (including the cauda equina) or the spinal cord. With:
A. Evidence of nerve root compression characterized by neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test (sitting and supine);
B. Spinal arachnoiditis, confirmed by an operative note or pathology report of tissue biopsy, or by appropriate medically acceptable imaging, manifested by severe burning or painful dysesthesia, resulting in the need for changes in position or posture more than once every 2 hours;
C. Lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication, established by findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging, manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness, and resulting in inability to ambulate effectively, as defined in 1.00B2b.
6b. Chad Brown’s Explanation of Social Security’s Rules
For you to “meet the listing” and thereby qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have bone spurs that are causing compression of a nerve root or the spinal cord as the result of wear and tear over time (arthritic changes) or an injury. This nerve or spinal cord compression causes:
A. Serious pain, limitation of movement of the spine, loss of movement and control of extremities with muscle weakness causing muscle loss, along with a loss of feeling or reflexes. If the lower back is involved, a positive result to the straight-leg raising test while sitting and lying down is present.
B. Spinal arachnoiditis (Arachnoiditis is a pain disorder caused by the inflammation of the arachnoid, one of the membranes that surrounds and protects the nerves of the spinal cord), confirmed by operative notes or a pathology report of tissue biopsy, or by imaging, that includes indication of areas that produce severe, burning pain when lightly touched, resulting in the need to change position or posture more than once every two hours to alleviate discomfort.
C. Lumbar (lower) spinal stenosis that results in painful muscle spasms, confirmed by imaging, with chronic radiating discomfort or pain, weakness, and results in an inability to move around effectively, as defined in 1.00B2b.”
7. Internet Resources for Bone Spurs
For other general information about Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs and how the law firm of Chad Brown Law can help you, visit:
For a complete listing of conditions that Social Security considers disabling, go to Social Security’s website at:
For more general information about bone spurs on the spine, go to this website:
8. Community Resources for Bone Spurs
Ask your doctor to refer you an orthopedic back surgeon or neurosurgeon for more comprehensive options and treatment for bone spurs of the spine. In each community or region of North Carolina are usually found such medical experts on spinal bone spurs.