Health Watch: Back pain turns out to be bone-breaking tumor

David Covington didn't think his back pain and general weakness would eventually lead to him needing a cane at 27. He even had a hard time with household chores.

"I couldn't get the lawnmower started, and it was just a pull, and I wasn't strong enough to pull it on," Covington said.

Doctors did a full body scan on David and found he had several stress fractures throughout his body.

"That was kind of where I really felt that, 'Oh, maybe this is something more serious than just back pain,'" Covington said.

Covington's condition worsened even after two orthopedists, a rheumatologist and months of treatments.

He became so weak that he was falling. Then an endocrinologist said a tumor in his brain might be the culprit.

"A rare problem called TIO, which stands for tumor-induced osteomalacia, so tumors causing breakdown of bone," says Reid Thompson, MD.

Covington was referred to neurosurgeon Reid Thompson, who at first thought it was a benign tumor.

"If you ask most neurosurgeons who specialize in brain tumors what it is that you have, they would say it's a benign tumor, nothing to worry about," Thompson said.

A quick search about TIO changed his mind.

"We really had to do that operation, because it was a chance to actually cure him of this disease which was ravishing his body," Thompson said.

Covington felt relief after the surgery and about a month of physical therapy.

"It would take about five minutes to get from my car to the front door," Covington said. "Now, it takes about 15 seconds."

Two months after surgery, Covington was back in his classroom teaching, pain-free.

Doctors say Covington's case of TIO was even rarer because of its location. Most of those tumors are normally found in the hands, feet, or nasal cavities.
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