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Spinal bone spurs are considered to be a normal aspect of aging and can occur anywhere on the spine, more commonly the cervical or lumbar spine. In some cases, the thoracic spine can develop bone spurs as well, but they are less likely to occur in this area. When spurs develop on the thoracic spine, it is usually at the T11-T12 level, because the spine is generally less rigid in this area. Although thoracic bone spurs are considered to be somewhat rare, if they develop, multiple symptoms are produced. Symptoms of thoracic bone spurs often include pain and difficulty moving the area.
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What are Bone Spurs?
The term "bone spurs" commonly describes tiny, spur-like growths that develop on an area of the body. These boney growths often protrude into an area, causing pain; however, this isn't the case with spinal bone spurs. Spinal bone spurs are actually smooth and flat, and they develop over a prolonged period of time. These spurs usually develop as a normal part of the aging process and as spinal degeneration occurs. People over 60 often develop spinal bone spurs, but the severity of the spurs and the symptoms they produce vary. The most common causes of the development of the spurs are spinal arthritis and spinal stenosis.
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What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of thoracic bone spurs are similar to those experienced when the spurs occur on other areas of the spine. As the facet joints become inflamed, the muscles become irritated. There may be a dull pain in the back while standing or walking. The pain may lessen with rest but worsen with activity. There may also be a a radiating pain originating from the site of the bone spurs.
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How are Bone Spurs Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose the bone spurs and develop a course of treatment, a physical examination is required. The patient’s medical and symptom history are gathered to determine whether or not additional testing is needed. X-rays are commonly used to diagnose bone spurs. The images produced allow physicians to see any destructive changes that have occured with the spine. CT and MRI scans are often used, as well. These scans provide physicians with detailed information about the spinal anatomy and how severe the nervous system compression is.
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How are Bone Spurs Treated?
The most common treatment for bone spurs involves non-surgical intervention. Muscle relaxant medications are commonly prescribed, as are anti-inflammatory medications to relieve the pain. Short periods of rest are also prescribed, because activity is known to trigger symptoms. Rehabilitation therapy is often used. This consists of chiropractic manipulation and exercises to alleviate the pain. In some cases, cortisone injections may be used.
While these treatment options are considered to be effective, they aren’t always enough, and some patients may require surgical intervention to treat bone spurs.
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"Treatment Options for Bone Spurs," http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/back-pain/treatment-options-bone-spurs.
"Degenerative Spine Disease," http://spinwarp.ucsd.edu/NeuroWeb/Text/sp-700.htm.