The spine is made up of a series of 26 bones, the sacrum and coccyx. It encloses a vital tube-like nervous tissue and support cells known as the spinal cord. The spinal cord extends from the medulla oblongata to the bottom of spine. Together with the brain, they make up the central nervous system.
A lump on spine can be quite frightening. Lumps are almost always taken to mean cancer or other serious illnesses. This can be made worse by self-diagnosis based on online information. It is for such reasons that you are encouraged to have your doctor check and diagnose a lump not only on your spine but on any other part of the body. In this article, we will discuss the common causes of lumps on spine, their symptoms and available treatment options.
Lump on spine in middle of back
A lump on spine in middle of back is most likely a spinal tumor. Spinal tumors originate in spine bones (vertebral tumors) or in the spinal cord (intradural tumor).
- Vertebral column tumors – Vertebral tumors can originate in bones of the spine or the disc elements in which the bones are attached. These are known as primary tumors. Cancer cells can also have migrated from other parts of the body such as the breasts, lungs or prostate. These are known as metastatic tumors and are more common.
- Intramedullary tumors – these tumors originate in the cells of the spinal cord. In most cases, the tumors are not cancerous but can cause other spinal problems. The spinal region of the neck is mostly affected.
- Extramedullary tumors – these tumors can grow slowly in nerve roots that sprout from the spinal cord or in the membranes that surround the spinal cord. Large ones can end up compressing the spinal cord to the extent of causing pain and weakness. Nerve sheath tumors and meningiomas are most common.
The exact cause of spinal tumors remains unknown. It is however thought to be genetically linked. This doesn’t guarantee that you will have these tumors if a close member of your family has them. In fact, it is not known whether the genetic link is hereditary or not. Neurofibromatosis 2 is thought to increase the chances of developing spinal tumors.
Most spinal tumors will cause some symptoms. They may include;
- Back pain that worsens at night
- Pain around the lump that worsens in the morning
- Pain in the neck
- Mild numbness in limbs
- Weakened muscles
- Unexpected pain in other parts of the body
- Reduced muscle functions including walking
- Pain that doesn’t improve after rest
- Loss of appetite, weight loss and fever
Most cases of malignant tumors in the spine are caused by cells that have migrated from another part of the body. It therefore important to check with your doctor should you notice a lump elsewhere in your body or symptoms such as chronic cough, pain in the chest, breast lumps and lump near your groin or a hard lump on collarbone.
Diagnosis and treatment for Lump on spine in middle of back
Diagnosis aims to not only identify the type of the spinal tumor but also check for signs of other tumors. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and require your medical history. The spine will be examined through imaging tests aided by MRIs and CT scans. If necessary, biopsy to rule out the presence of cancer cells will also be taken.
Surgical removal is perhaps the best treatment option for spinal tumors. But surgery is only an option if it will not cause harm to the spinal cord or nerves. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are commonly used together with surgery for cancerous tumors.
Benign and slow-growing tumors can be left without treatment but be closely monitored. This means that you will be required to go for appointments. During the appointments, your doctor will take MRI and CT scans.
Pain and loss of nerve functions such as sensitivity can be improved by removing pressure on nerve roots and the spinal cord. You find that tumors are not necessarily painful. Pain occurs when they push against nerve roots and the spinal cord.
Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers.
See your doctor if a lump on spine in middle of back or in the cervical (neck) region is accompanied by pain that doesn’t get better with rest.
Lump on back of neck right side or on spine
A lump on back of neck right side can be a lymph node, a neck muscle spasm or a spinal tumor.
A healthy adult has about 600 lymph nodes all over the body. In fact, a lump on top of head can be a harmless lymph node. Large groupings of these pea-sized lymph nodes are located in either side of the neck. An infection or a disease that involves the cervical region of the spine may result in inflammation of these lymph nodes. Swollen lymph nodes feel firm and larger.
Neck muscle spasm
Spasms are lumps that form due to involuntary tightening of muscles and common causes of lump on leg and neck. They are usually accompanied by pain and hardening of the muscles. Pain can go on for days even after the hard lump has gone. Carrying heavy loads on your shoulder, poor sleeping posture, stress are some of neck spasm causes. Medical treatment is not always necessary. You can try simple neck exercises at home.
We have discussed spinal tumors earlier in this article. Intramedullary tumors are the most likely to develop in the neck region. Although they mostly are not cancerous, they can lead to problems such as loss of sensation and chronic neck pain.
Lump in lower back left side on spine
A lump in lower back left on spine can be caused by a bruise, a muscle spasm or a spinal tumor.
A bruise develops when blood collects under the skin due to damaged blood vessels. If a lump forms under the skin, it is referred to as a hematoma. If it forms on spinal bones, it will be referred to as a spinal bone bruise. Lumps after bone bruises are not dangerous. The problem is that the spine is quite delicate, partly because of the tissue it is meant to protect and due to all the upper body weight it supports. You can compare the delicacy of spine bone bruises to a hard lump on scalp after injury. It is therefore very advisable to see a doctor if a bone bruise on lower back causes a lump almost immediately after an injury. Other symptoms may include lump in groin female and male symptoms due to swollen lymph nodes, swelling and pain.
We have discussed muscle spasm and their causes. In the lower back, a number of muscles, ligaments, and tendons are located. You can have a muscle spasm in this region after lifting a heavy weight or any other activity that strains your lower back beyond normal limit. In fact, muscle spasms do protect from muscle strains.
Any type of spinal tumors can occur in the lower back. See your doctor if a hard lump near this region is accompanied by the symptoms of spinal tumors identified above or if you notice other masses such as a lump below sternum, in breasts or prostate.
Other possible causes of spine lumps
The only way you can be certain that a lump is originating in your spine is after a medical diagnosis. It is common to have lumps such as lipomas, fibromas and cysts under the skin. These lumps can occur just near or on the muscles that surround the spine. Cysts can also develop on bones.
Spinal osteoarthritis can also be responsible for small lumps or nodules along your spine. This is a degenerative disease that causes wear and tear of the cartilage on spinal discs. Without treatment, osteoarthritis can cause many forms of disabilities.
Another common cause of hard lumps on bones is a bone growth. Bone growths are not cancerous and can be contributed to by many factors. Generally, they form hard lumps on surface of affected bones.
When to see a doctor
In most cases, lumps on spine will be painful. Even if the pain is not immediate, it will come as the lump bigger.
For slow-growing lumps, see your doctor when a lump has been there for more than 2 weeks. Also, get the lump checked if you have ever been diagnosed with cancer, especially in the recent past.
For lumps such as caused by swollen lymph nodes, muscle spasms and bruises, see your doctor if symptoms don’t improve in 24 hours. Although your doctor may not do much, you will at least be advised on how to handle the situation much better.
While online information will give you a clue on what you may be dealing with, it should not replace your doctor’s take on the matter.