The Link Between Bone Spurs and Leg Pain

As the longest and thickest nerve in your body, your sciatic nerve allows you to feel and control your hips, legs, and feet. If sciatic nerve pain — also known as sciatica — has ever stopped you in your tracks, you’re not alone: About two in five adults (40%) in the United States experience persistent sciatica symptoms at some point in their lives.    

If you’ve been dealing with sciatica-related leg pain, our skilled team of interventional pain management experts at LA Pain Doctor can help. With offices in Metairie, LaPlace, Harvey, Hammond, and Luling, Louisiana, we specialize in getting to the bottom of chronic sciatic nerve pain — so you can attain effective, long-term relief. 

Here’s what that means when a bone spur is the underlying cause of your problem. 

A short tutorial on sciatic nerve pain

Rooted at five points along each side of your lumbar spine (lower back) and sacrum (bottom area of spine), your sciatic nerve runs through each hip, extends down each leg, and reaches into the sole of each foot. 

Sciatica emerges when one or more of the sciatica nerve roots is compressed, irritated, injured, inflamed, or all the above, usually because of: 

Although it often begins as general lower back pain, sciatic nerve root inflammation tends to progress quickly to its characteristic form: Deep, sharp, burning, or radiating pain that shoots through one hip and down the back of the leg. For some people, sciatic nerve pain reaches as far as their calf or foot. 

When a bone spur leads to leg pain 

A bone spur (osteophyte) is an abnormal outgrowth of bone tissue that develops over a long period of time, usually within a joint. Small and smooth, most bone spurs are a long-term consequence of progressive osteoarthritis damage. 

Osteoarthritis causes the gradual breakdown of joint cartilage, or the firm, flexible tissue that cushions your bones and facilitates smooth joint movement. As your body attempts to repair the degrading cartilage, it produces new bone tissue that may eventually form into a lumpy outgrowth. Ankylosing spondylitis, a rare form of inflammatory spinal arthritis, can also lead to the development of bone spurs.  

When a bone spur develops within a facet joint of the spine, it can exist for years (or even indefinitely) without causing problems. When symptoms do appear, they tend to emerge for one of three reasons:

Facet joint inflammation

When a bone spur causes grinding, high-friction contact between adjacent vertebrae, the result is localized inflammation, pain, and stiffness. 

Nerve root compression

A bone spur can compress a spinal nerve root by growing into the neural foramina, where it exits the spinal column. When one or more of your sciatic nerve roots are compressed this way, you may experience tingling sensations down your leg. If the affected nerve root is inflamed, tingling may be displaced by pain. 

Spinal cord compression

If a bone spur grows into the spinal canal, it can compress your spinal cord and lead to a loss of strength, unexplained muscle weakness, balance issues, and persistent pain — all symptoms that typically appear with severe sciatica. 

Our comprehensive approach to treating sciatica

Sciatica-related leg pain can limit your activities, disrupt your sleep, and undermine your vitality. Sciatica treatment aims to undo this intricate web of dysfunction and pain, strand by strand, by taking a comprehensive approach to the problem that: 

When a bone spur puts mild to moderate pressure on a sciatic nerve root, we can often provide effective symptom relief with a conservative care approach. This may include:  

These techniques can help take pressure off the sciatic nerve root, giving it the space it needs to heal and recover. If over-the-counter NSAIDS don’t provide enough relief for you to actively engage in PT stretches and exercises, we may recommend periodic steroid injections to ease facet joint swelling and pain. 

Most of the time, sciatica responds well to conservative care. If this approach isn’t successful for you, however, surgery may be the next best option. For some people, a laminectomy to remove bone spurs can make all the difference.

To learn more, call 504-229-4866 or book an appointment online with LA Pain Doctor today.

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