The Chiropractic Doctors' Association of Hong Kong


【Chiropractic Research】Lumbar Schwannoma as a Rare Cause of Radiculopathy in the Chiropractic Office: A Case Report


Cauda equina tumors are rare, slow-growing, and typically benign. These tumors present with low back pain resembling disc displacement with radiculopathy and thus may go undiagnosed for months.

A 52-year-old, otherwise healthy man presented to a chiropractor with a one-year history of worsening low back pain radiating to the right lower extremity, rated an 8/10 in severity and aggravated by recumbency. Previously, his primary care physician had ordered radiographs revealing mild lumbar degenerative changes, prescribed a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, and referred him to an orthopedist and physical therapist. There had been no change in symptoms. Upon examination by the chiropractor, the patient had neurologic deficits, and due to progressive worsening, the chiropractor recommended magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which the patient deferred due to cost. The chiropractor initiated a trial of care, with initial success; however, the patient’s symptoms recurred, and he consented to an MRI. MRI revealed an intradural extramedullary lumbar tumor, and the chiropractor referred the patient to an oncologist, who referred the patient to a neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon surgically removed the mass, with a biopsy confirming a schwannoma. The patient had significantly improved six weeks after surgery.

This case highlights a patient with chronic low back pain for whom a chiropractor identified a cauda equina tumor and referred him for further evaluation and surgery. Clinicians should consider night pain and persistent symptoms, despite conservative care, as red flags warranting further investigation in those with low back pain. Providers should refer for neurosurgical evaluation when clinical and radiological findings suggest a cauda equina tumor.