Symptoms A-Z

Back Bump Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Different skin conditions can cause one or multiple back bumps. The most common causes of a bump on the back include skin abscess, cysts, warts, or a back pimple. Other causes for lump on the back can arise from lipoma or non cancerous cell growth. Read below for more information on causes and how to treat back bumps.

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Back Bump Symptoms

The back is crucial to posture and movement and contains many important structures responsible for keeping the body balanced. It provides the main components necessary for keeping organs, bones, and more all in their proper place and functioning properly.

Most of the time, a back bump is related to the spine and its 33 vertebrae (bones), but bumps can also be related to the muscles, nerves, ligaments, and even skin of the back as well [1]. A bump in the back can be a sign of both benign and life-threatening conditions and may be associated with symptoms that can vary greatly.

Common accompanying symptoms of a back bump

It’s also likely to experience the following.

A back bump may also be concerning since it can be the initial sign of a cancerous process. However, there are signs and symptoms that may make a back bump less worrisome. If a back bump is easily mobile, well-circumscribed (rounded with even borders) or transient, it is less concerning. However, if a back bump causes significant pain, feels rigid or stuck in place, or grows in size over time, prompt follow-up is necessary [2,3].

Back Bump Causes

Back anatomy

A back bump is usually the result of the collection or growth of underlying structures in the back. There are various specific structures within the back including:

  • Nerves: The back is home to the spinal cord, the body’s central support structure and relay center for messages going to and from the body and brain. The nerves that arise from the spinal column are responsible for providing sensation and allowing movement of different parts of the body.
  • Muscles: There are many muscles in the back, both superficial and deep. These muscles allow you to do everything from bending and twisting to standing and lifting objects. They include extensor muscles which help to hold the body upright, flexor muscles which help for bending movements and oblique muscles with help with rotation.
  • Fat: There is a layer of fatty tissue under the skin that stores energy, insulates/regulates the body’s temperature and serves as a protective cushion.
  • Lymphatics: The lymphatic system helps rid the body of waste and toxins. It includes a network of tissues and structures both in the body and underneath the skin, such as lymph nodes, that play an important role in allowing the body to fight off infections.
  • Skin: It may seem obvious, but the skin is an important organ to the entire body and is often the most common etiology (cause) of bumps and lumps on the skin. All three layers of the skin, the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous layer can result in bumps. Hair follicles within the skin can also cause bumps in the back.

Neurologic causes

The spinal cord within the back has many nerves that are covered and protected by a membranous sheath, called the dura, as well as a column of bones, known as the vertebrae. Bumps or masses can arise from any of the structures within this system — including the dura — resulting in a bump you may be able to visibly feel and see in the back. These bumps or masses can either be benign or malignant and require follow-up with a healthcare professional.

  • Intramedullary: This term can be translated as “in the membrane” and refers to growths arising from the cells within the spinal cord itself.
  • Extramedullary: This term can be translated as “outside the membrane” and refers to growths arising from any of the structures outside of the spinal cord, including the nerves that extend from the canal, the bones, and the dura itself.

Skin/Soft tissue causes

Causes of a back bump related to the skin or soft tissue may include the following [4].

  • Dermatologic: There are many dermatologic conditions that can result in bumps in the back. For example, melanoma is a dangerous form of skin cancer that can occur on any part of the body. It may start as a small blemish or point on the skin that can grow and become hard and discolored in the process.
  • Soft tissue: Growths can arise from any of the tissues that support and surround the different parts of the body such as the muscles, fat tendons, and even lining of the joints. Growths of the fat and soft tissue of the skin are known as lipomas and often present as soft, round, or oval painless nodules. They most commonly occur on the back and upper extremities but can appear in other locations.

Lymphatic causes

The lymph nodes are structures that contain immune cells that fight infection and filter harmful substances from the body. When these structures become infected, they can swell and result in palpable lumps. The back contains some lymph nodes that are susceptible to infection and swelling. If swollen lymph nodes are causing the lump in your back, you may also experience tenderness and a fever as well.

Malignant causes

In general, any growth is the result of cells dividing and growing uncontrollably. Sometimes there is a genetic mutation in DNA or a specific protein or failure in an important checkpoint that results in this unchecked growth. These abnormal cells accumulate to form a noticeable lump. A lump (also known as a tumor) can be benign and can arise from many of the causes above; however, if this lump grows and invades the body it is considered malignant. A back bump may be the result of a growth in the back itself or the result of a cancerous process spreading from another organ/body part. This process is known as metastasis.

9 Possible Back Bump Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced back bump. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Skin cyst

A cyst is a small sac or lump, filled with fluid, air, fat, or other material, that begins to grow somewhere in the body for no apparent reason. A skin cyst is one that forms just beneath the skin.

It's believed that skin cysts form around trapped keratin cells – the cells that form the relatively tough outer layer of the skin.

These cysts are not contagious.

Anyone can get a skin cyst, but they are most common in those who are over age 18, have acne, or have injured the skin.

Symptoms include the appearance of a small, rounded lump under the skin. Cysts are normally painless unless infected, when they will be reddened and sore and contain pus.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination. A small cyst can be left alone, though if it is unsightly or large enough to interfere with movement it can be removed in a simple procedure done in a doctor's office. An infected cyst must be treated so that the infection does not spread.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: skin-colored armpit bump, marble sized armpit lump, small armpit lump

Symptoms that always occur with skin cyst: skin-colored armpit bump

Urgency: Wait and watch

Lipoma

Lipoma is a word that translates as "fatty tumor," but a lipoma is not cancer. It is simply a growth of fat between the muscle layer and the skin above it.

The exact cause is not known. The condition does run in families and is associated with other unusual syndromes such as adiposis dolorosa, which is similar. Lipomas most often appear after age 40.

Symptoms include a soft, easily moveable lump beneath the skin, about two inches across. A lipoma is painless unless its growth is irritating the nerves around it. They are most often found on the back, neck, and abdomen, and sometimes the arms and upper legs.

It is a good idea to have any new or unusual growth checked by a medical provider, just to make certain it is benign.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, biopsy, and imaging such as ultrasound or CT scan.

Most of the time, treatment is not necessary unless the lipoma is unsightly or is interfering with other structures. It can be removed through surgery or liposuction.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: skin-colored groin bump, marble sized groin lump, small groin lump

Symptoms that always occur with lipoma: skin-colored groin bump

Urgency: Wait and watch

Skin abscess

A skin abscess is a large pocket of pus that has formed just beneath the skin. It is caused by bacteria getting under the skin, usually through a small cut or scratch, and beginning to multiply. The body fights the invasion with white blood cells, which kill some of the infected tissue but form pus within the cavity that remains.

Symptoms include a large, red, swollen, painful lump of pus anywhere on the body beneath the skin. There may be fever, chills, and body aches from the infection.

If not treated, there is the risk of an abscess enlarging, spreading, and causing serious illness.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

A small abscess may heal on its own, through the body's immune system. But some will need to be drained or lanced in a medical provider's office so that the pus can be cleaned out. Antibiotics are usually prescribed.

Keeping the skin clean, and using only clean clothes and towels, will help to make sure that the abscess does not recur.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: rash with bumps or blisters, red rash, red skin bump larger than 1/2 cm in diameter, pus-filled rash, rash

Symptoms that always occur with skin abscess: rash with bumps or blisters

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing form of skin cancer. Skin cancer falls into two major groups: Non-melanoma and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: facial skin changes, pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painless facial bump, growing facial lump

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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Wart

Warts, also called common warts or verrucae, are small, rough, rounded growths on the top layer of the skin. They may appear alone or in clusters. Common warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and are contagious through direct contact. They may spread from one place on the body to another simply through touch.

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Boil (furuncle)

A furuncle, also called a boil, is infection of a hair follicle. The infection forms under the skin at the root of the hair and may occur anywhere on the body.

The infection is caused by bacteria, most often Staphylococcus aureus or "staph." Irritation caused by clothes or anything else rubbing the skin can cause the skin to break down and allow bacteria to enter.

Staph bacteria are found everywhere. Frequent and thorough handwashing, and otherwise maintaining cleanliness, will help to prevent its spread.

Most susceptible are those with a weakened immune system; diabetes; and other skin infections.

Symptoms include a single bump under the skin that is swollen, painful, and red, and contains pus.

It is important to treat the boil, since infection can spread into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and sometimes fluid sample from the boil.

Treatment may involve incision and drainage of the infection, followed by creams to apply to the site of the boil and/or a course of antibiotic medicine.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painful facial bump, marble sized facial lump, constant skin changes

Symptoms that always occur with boil (furuncle): pink or red facial bump

Symptoms that never occur with boil (furuncle): fever

Urgency: Self-treatment

Pimple

Pimples are also called comedones, spots, blemishes, or "zits." Medically, they are small skin eruptions filled with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria.

Pimples often first start appearing at puberty, when hormones increase the production of oil in the skin and sometimes clog the pores.

Most susceptible are teenagers from about ages 13 to 17.

Symptoms include blocked pores that may appear flat and black on the surface, because the oil darkens when exposed to the air; blocked pores that appear white on the surface because they have closed over with dead skin cells; or swollen, yellow-white, pus-filled blisters surrounded by reddened skin.

Outbreaks of pimples on the skin can interfere with quality of life, making the person self-conscious about their appearance and causing pain and discomfort in the skin. A medical provider can help to manage the condition, sometimes through referral to a dermatologist.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

Treatment involves improving diet; keeping the skin, hair, washcloths, and towels very clean; and using over-the-counter acne remedies.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painful facial bump, marble sized facial lump

Symptoms that always occur with pimple: pink or red facial bump

Urgency: Self-treatment

Melanoma

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of a mole. Most melanomas have a black or black-blue area. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. It may be black, abnormal, or "ugly looking."

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: brown-colored skin changes, atypical features of a facial bump, black-colored skin changes, growing facial lump, large facial lump

Symptoms that always occur with melanoma: atypical features of a facial bump

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Cherry angioma

Cherry angiomas are small, red, harmless skin findings that occur commonly in older adults. They are clumps of overgrown cells derived from the inside of blood vessels, or vascular endothelium. Cherry angiomas most commonly start appearing around age 40 and some estimates suggest that the major...

Back Bump Treatments and Relief

When to see a doctor

Since the causes of back bumps are varied, it is important to make an appointment with your physician in order to get the proper diagnosis and treatment. Depending on the cause of your symptoms, your physician may suggest the following.

  • Surgery: Surgery is often the first-line option for removing both benign and malignant growths from the back and other areas of the body. It is important to take very important care in removing such growths since damage to the spinal cord and its components can result in serious consequences such as permanent paralysis.
  • Noninvasive surgical removal: There are many noninvasive semi-surgical options for removing certain dermatologic bumps that may appear on the back. Treatment modalities such as electrodesiccation, shave excision, and even scissors can remove lesions on the back.
  • Antibiotics: If you have swollen lymph nodes due to infection, your physician will provide appropriate antibiotic treatment.
  • Cancer treatment: If your back bump and associated symptoms are due to cancer, your physician will discuss treatment options including surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.

When it is an emergency

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience bowel or bladder issues in addition to pain, numbness or tingling in the lower back that spreads down the legs. These could be signs of cauda equina, a medical emergency of the spine.

FAQs About Back Bump

Can I lay down on a back bump?

Sometimes back bumps may be painful and uncomfortable and make activities such as lying down very difficult. However, sometimes they can be almost unnoticeable. If you can tolerate lying directly on your back, it is okay to do so.

How will a back bump affect how I walk?

Most of the time, bumps on the back are benign and involve the superficial skin. However, depending on the cause and location of your back bump, your gait may be affected. For example, if your back bump is a growth of the spinal cord/column the nerves that assist in walking may be damaged or the growth may compress the nerves necessary for this task. If you experience clumsiness or trouble walking in addition to symptoms such as fatigue or unexplained weight loss, make an appointment with your health care provider promptly.

Will it be difficult for me to exercise with a back bump?

Exercise is often the main therapy modality for back bumps related to cancerous processes, especially if they affect the nerves and cause pain or weakness in the arms and legs. Rehabilitation and physical therapy is often part of treatment and can help alleviate some symptoms and hasten recovery.

Will my back bump grow larger?

Depending on the cause of your symptoms, a back bump may grow in size. For example, in the cases of cancerous growths such as melanoma or soft tissue sarcoma, growth and sometimes spread of the initial tumor happens often.

Can a back bump be inherited?

Some back masses related to cancerous processes can be inherited. For example, the mutation that causes some forms of soft tissue sarcoma can be inherited. However, for conditions with an infectious component that may affect the lymphatics, for example, inheritance is less likely.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Back Bump

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • What color is the bump?
  • Do you feel pain when you touch the bump?
  • Do you purposely tan (using sun, tanning beds, or UV rays)?
  • Has anyone in your family had cancer?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

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Back Bump Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced back bump have also experienced:

  • 13% Lower Back Pain
  • 12% Back Pain
  • 2% Fatigue

People who have experienced back bump were most often matched with:

  • 100% Skin Abscess

People who have experienced back bump had symptoms persist for:

  • 49% Over a month
  • 21% Less than a week
  • 11% Less than a day

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Back Bump Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your back bump

References

  1. Soft tissues masses. University of Washington Medicine: Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. University of Washington Link
  2. Humps and bumps: Feel them ... like it or lump it. Curr Oncol. 2012;19(3):e115-6. NCBI Link
  3. Informed Health Online [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Boils and carbuncles: Overview. 2018 Jun 14. NCBI Link
  4. Informed Health Online [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Boils and carbuncles: Overview. 2018 Jun 14. NCBI Link

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.