Bone spurs that behind an anatomical structure are called posterior osteophytes. Physicians frequently refer to spurs forming in front of structures as anterior osteophytes. These growths occur along the edges of any bone in the body because of cartilage breakdown, connective tissue calcification, or trauma. Symptoms vary depending on general location, but eventually include inflammation and pain. Treatment depends on the location and severity of the condition.
Posterior osteophyte formation commonly occurs when bone or cartilage tissue breakdown during the natural aging process or in the presence of medical conditions that include osteoarthritis. The body attempts to damage repair by increasing bone cell growth. Overgrowth may occur, which produces abnormal bony projections that may go undetected for extended periods of time until they cause inflammation, swelling, and pain.
As a defense mechanism, the body may produce posterior osteophytes around ligaments and tendons in order to protect these structures from further deterioration. At times, the ligaments and tendons themselves may undergo calcification. Repetitive or traumatic injuries often trigger the body's reparative processes and may result in osteophyte formation. Complications occur when osteophytes break off and float around in the joint capsule or become imbedded in the joint lining. Common sites for bone spur growth include the neck, spine, and knees, along with the heels.
Posterior osteophytes located in the neck often compress delicate nerve tissue causing localized pain. Depending on the nerve or nerve branches affected, individuals might experience a variety of symptoms from extremity numbness and tingling to swallowing difficulty. The excess bone may also impede blood circulation to the brain.
A type of spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the vertebral cavity, containing the spinal cord, may occur because of posterior osteophytes. The bone spurs compress spinal nerves causing local or referred pain, numbness, and tingling. Posterior osteophytes that develop between vertebrae are commonly associated with a condition known as spondylosis. The condition not only produces physical discomfort but also impairs normal movement.
Individuals can experience inhibited or limited physical movement when posterior osteophytes develop within limb joints. Bone spurs in the knee typically cause difficulty with bending or extension movements when these osteophytes develop between the kneecap and the end of the femoral bone. Walking or bearing weight becomes extremely difficult and painful for people with plantar faciitis. This condition occurs when bone spurs encapsulate the Achilles tendon and the heel bones.
Health care providers often prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications for patients suffering from posterior osteophytes. If bone spurs cause tissue damage with movement, impede circulation, or become chronic conditions, physicians generally recommend surgery. Oftentimes, using minimally invasive endososcopic procedures, surgeons can remove the abnormal bone tissue.