As the cartilage in our joints deteriorates, the damaged joint can react by creating bumpy or scalloped growths, called osteophytes or bone spurs.

See Spine Anatomy and Osteoarthritis

Watch our video about lumbar osteophytes: Lumbar Osteophytes (Bone Spurs) Video

Read on to learn about the development of bone spurs in the lumbar, or lower, region of the spine.


As cartilage breaks down, extra movement occurs. This extra movement triggers the body to compensate by forming growths on the surfaces of the joint. These are osteophytes, or bone spurs.

In this image, we can see bone spurs forming on the facet joints in the lumbar spine.

Watch Facet Joint Anatomy Video

Medical illustration showing bone spurs in the spine caused by osteophytes

These growths are normal and occur in most people as they age, but they can be accelerated by factors like poor posture, poor nutrition, or by a traumatic injury to the joint. They are also more likely to develop for people with conditions like spinal osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis.

See How Osteoarthritis Can Lead to Spinal Stenosis

Bone spurs don't necessarily cause pain, but in the lower back, severe bone spurs can compress nearby nerves and cause neurological symptoms such as pain, tingling, weakness, or numbness.

See Spinal Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Medical illustration showing radicular pain in the legs

This is particularly true when bone spurs form near the foramen, the hole through which nerves exit the spine.

Medical illustration showing bone spurs crowding the space in the foramen, the space where nerves exit the spinal canal

Other symptoms of bone spurs include stiffness, limited range of motion, and pain that worsens with activity but improves with rest. The symptoms of bone spurs can resemble the symptoms of other joint disorders, so work with your doctor to receive the right diagnosis.

See Spinal Osteoarthritis Treatment

Medical illustration showing bone spurs in the lower spine caused by osteophytes