Back pain is a common complaint that many people experience at some point in their lives. It can range from mild discomfort to debilitating agony, and it often gets worse at night. While most nighttime back pain is attributed to musculoskeletal issues or poor sleep posture, it’s essential to consider that it could be a sign of something more serious, such as a spinal cord tumor. We explore the relationship between nighttime back pain and spinal cord tumors and discuss potential treatments.
What is Nighttime Back Pain?
Nighttime back pain can be particularly concerning because it disrupts your sleep, making it challenging to get the rest your body needs. The causes of nighttime back pain can vary, including muscle strain, poor mattress support, or inflammatory conditions like arthritis. However, if your back pain persists or worsens when lying down and is accompanied by other unusual symptoms, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional like Dr. Gregory Lekovic.
Could it be a Spinal Cord Tumor?
Spinal cord tumors are a rare but serious condition that can cause nighttime back pain as a symptom. These tumors can develop within the spinal cord itself (intradural) or outside the spinal cord (extradural), affecting various regions of the spine, including cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions. Some of the signs and symptoms that may indicate that your nighttime back pain is caused by a spinal cord tumor include:
- Your back pain becomes progressively worse over time, especially at night
- Numbness or weakness in your limbs, affecting your ability to move and control them
- Changes in sensation, such as tingling or a loss of feeling in certain body parts
- Loss of control of your bladder or bowels
- Difficulty walking, balance problems, or a loss of coordination
- Pain intensifies when lying down, leading to sleep disturbances
Diagnosis & Treatment
If you or your healthcare provider suspect a spinal cord tumor is the cause of your nighttime back pain, several diagnostic tests may be performed. These can include MRI scans, CT scans, and electromyography (EMG) to assess nerve function and pinpoint the tumor’s location.
Treatment for spinal cord tumors typically involves a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, depending on the tumor type, location, and extent of growth. Surgery is a common approach to remove the tumor and relieve pressure on the spinal cord. The specific surgical procedure may vary, but some common options include:
- Surgery for Intradural Spinal Cord Tumors: Intradural tumors are located within the protective coverings of the spinal cord. Surgical options include microsurgery to remove the tumor while preserving spinal cord function.
- Surgery for Extradural Spinal Cord Tumors: Extradural tumors are found outside the spinal cord but may still compress it. Treatment often involves surgical removal, which may require more extensive procedures.
- Cervical, Thoracic, and Lumbar Laminectomy and Fusion: Depending on the tumor’s location, laminectomy (removing a portion of the vertebrae) and fusion (stabilizing the spine with hardware) may be necessary to address the tumor and prevent instability.
- Occipito-Cervical Fusion: In cases where the tumor affects the upper cervical spine, occipito-cervical fusion may be recommended to provide stability.
The choice of treatment depends on various factors, including the tumor’s size, location, and type and your overall health. It’s essential to discuss all available options with a neurosurgeon like Dr. Gregory Lekovic to determine the most appropriate course of action. If you have persistent nighttime back pain and the signs and symptoms of spinal cord tumors, please schedule a consultation with Dr. Lekovic today.