Bone spurs are simply bony overgrowths that are usually associated with arthritis. Although many people consider arthritis to be a disease, it is actually part of the natural aging process, and does not cause pain in itself. Problems arise when the bone spurs put pressure on nerves or joints. Spurs around the front and side of the discs are very common, and rarely cause problems. However, spurs between the facets, or pressing on exiting nerve roots can cause a lot of pain.
Nerve Root Pain
Spurs within the facets tend to cause pain when you lean backwards. The bones are able to slide to a point, but then hit a bony stop.
Nerve root pain (or “radiculopathy”) is pain that irritates nerve roots in the neck or back. Like the discs (or your knees for that matter), spurs can form wherever there is motion. The facets are common places for bone spurs. However, the most common situation is not that they block motion, but they widen the joint into the spinal canal. Problems arise as the facets enlarge, and the overall space for the nerves narrows over time. Natural arthritic processes take many years to occur, so the body tries to adapt. Bone spurs can also develop around the disc and place pressure on the nerves. Often there is a combination of anterior pressure (from the discs) and posterior pressure (from the ligamentum flavum).