Spine Care

Osteoid Osteoma of the Spine: Muscle Spasms, and Pain


Osteoid osteoma is a benign tumor/s that can grow on the spine andΒ other areas of the body. They are not cancerous, but they can cause pain and abnormal curvature of the spine. It can begin as a small benign spinal tumor that can cause pain, especially at night. They respond well to over-the-counter pain relievers and can go away independently. However, if symptoms are unmanageable, other treatments are available.

Osteoid Osteoma

Osteoid means a type of tissue that eventually turns to bone. Osteoma is a type of tumor unique to bones. They are small typical size is less than one inch across. These growths represent around ten percent of all benign bone tumors, with one percent representing spinal tumors.

They can appear and also affect the bones of the arms, hands, fingers, ankles, or feet. They are discovered on the spine around fifteen percent of the time. Osteoid osteomas of the spine affect the posterior or back area of the vertebrae rather than the anterior or front region. However, any area of the spine could be affected. But they are most common in the low back.

  • 60% affect the lumbar spine, lower back
  • 27% affect the cervical spine or neck region
  • 12% affects the thoracic spine or middle back


Osteoid osteoma is not cancerous and will not spread to various organ systems like malignant cancer. It can be discomforting and painful and could have to be removed. There are some risks associated with osteoid osteomas, including:


It could provoke muscle spasms of the erector spinae. These are the muscles that support the spine and could lead to scoliosis. The spine has a natural curvature. Scoliosis generates an S or C-shaped curve to the left, right, or both ways affecting function and mobility. This type is more likely to contribute to the left or right curve of the spine affecting the lower back.

Incorrect diagnosis

Because osteoid osteoma can cause scoliosis, sometimes a doctor will focus on treating the abnormal curve instead of the osteoma.

Nerve root compression

Most individuals do not pose a risk for nerve root compression. But there is a risk if the growth begins to press against the spinal cord, as it can interfere with nerve function. This can lead to spreading/radiating pain and sciatica.


The causes of osteoid osteoma are not completely understood. What is known is that men are three times more likely to be diagnosed than women. Young people also pose a risk in development. It can develop at any age, but around eighty percent are diagnosed in individuals under 30. The core of an osteoma is a growth called a nidus. Inside are growing tumor cells, blood vessels, and cells that progress to the bone. A bony shell encapsulates the whole thing.

Signs and Symptoms

Osteoid osteomas usually cause a dull ache at the site of the tumor, along with muscle spasms. The pain often gets worse at night. It can be relieved with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and aspirin. The pain can also be sharp and occur during the day, worsening with activity and sometimes progressing to severe pain over time. In some cases, however, there are no symptoms.


Doctors usually notice painful or swollen soft tissue around the tumor during a physical examination. There could be a lump, but this is rare. Imaging tests like an X-ray or a CT scan will be ordered. An x-ray can show the bone thickening, but a CT scan will show the nidus clearly as a dark center surrounded by white cortical bone. Sometimes a CT and MRI imaging scan is used to diagnose osteoid osteomas. In some cases, a biopsy could be needed. This is taking a tissue sample and sending it to a lab to be examined under a microscope. However, this is rarely needed.



Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can be effective in relieving symptoms. If it can be controlled with medication, then this could be the only necessary treatment. Some patients do well trying a different painkiller if the preferred medication no longer works. This needs to be discussed with your doctor, as chronic medication use is associated with issues like ulcers, kidney damage, and concerns about opioid addiction. When this approach is taken, the pain lasts about three years, with the lesion breaking down in five to seven years.


Surgery could be the next step if the pain cannot be controlled or the osteoma develops into scoliosis. Most spinal osteomas are surgically removed with open curettage. It is a small incision. The nidus is scooped/scraped out, and the cavity walls are removed with a motorized burr. Often a small amount of bone graft material is used to fill the area. Unfortunately, surgical resection means having to stay at the hospital. Recovery time can be painful.

Radiofrequency ablation

For osteomas that affect bones other than the spine, radiofrequency ablation is. It is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure with a short recovery time. During the procedure, radiofrequency waves generate heat within the nidus for around six minutes destroying the tumor. Surgeons use CT scans to precisely target the tumor. The procedure takes one to two hours; afterward, the patient waits in a recovery room for up to four hours.

However, radiofrequency ablation is not as commonly used to treat spinal osteomas. This comes from the risk of thermal nerve damage. The needle tip can reach 194 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than enough to damage the nerves. Candidates for radiofrequency ablation are usually young patients with no history of neurological problems. Osteoid osteoma is not as scary as it sounds; remember, a knowledgeable doctor and chiropractor is the best defense. If back pain is present, do not wait to get treatment. There is a spine specialist who can help.

Chronic Pain Chiropractic Treatment

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The information herein on "Osteoid Osteoma of the Spine: Muscle Spasms, and Pain" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, acupuncture, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed as a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) in Texas & New Mexico*
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