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Causes of Bone Spurs in the Lumbar Spine

By Blake Biddulph ; Updated August 14, 2017

Bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, are bony outgrowths that form on the edges of bones through the typical wear and tear breakdown or the aging process of the skeletal system. According to Spine Health, bone spurs prove quite common in individuals over the age of sixty, but do not always result in back pain. These bony growths are not painful in and of themselves, but can put pressure on nearby structures, such as nerves, and cause pain or other symptoms. Because of the high amount of motion and stress to the area, the lumbar spine proves particularly susceptible to the development of bone spurs.


Osteoarthritis is a breakdown process that leads to the distraction of cartilage which separates individual bones. When the cartilage is destroyed, it allows the bones to rub and excessive wear and tear occurs leading to spur formation. According to the National Institutes of Health, osteoarthritis proves the most common form of arthritis and many adults over the age of 50 will develop some degeneration in the lumbar spine. Excessive weight, injuries, or postural decline can lead to the formation of osteoarthritis.


Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis or DISH is a disease process that very often leads to large bone spurs throughout the spine. This disease causes calcification or hardening of the ligaments at the points of attachment in spine that then develop into bone spurs. Early symptoms of DISH include stiffness and pain and loss of range of motion. According to Ohio Health Online, it remains unclear what causes DISH, but certain risk factors exist that may increase the risk of developing it. These factors include being male, long-term use of retinoid medications, diabetes and older age as most sufferers are over the age of 50. Bone spurs that develop with DISH can become large and flowing and can cause a variety of symptoms.


Most bone spurs result because of some disease process, but they can develop on their own in the absence of disease. They have been found in older adults who have no signs of osteoarthritis or other disease, according MayoClinic.com. As the body ages, joints often become less stable and can no longer withstand stressful movements. The body's normal response to instability in a joint is to grow new bone in an effort to stabilize and strengthen the area. Bone spurs often result because of this process. Remaining mobile and active during the later years of life through consistent exercise can help prevent the formation of bone spurs.

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