Lower back pain is one of the most common issues amongst adults across the US – affecting millions of them each and every year. In most of these instances, the lower back pain is relatively minor, and the product of general soreness, or a lesser symptom of another back condition. However, in very rare cases, severe back pain can be a sign of a condition known as cauda equina syndrome, or CES – a serious, often debilitating back condition.
What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
Cauda equina syndrome is a relatively rare disorder, in which the patient will experience compression of a group of spinal nerve roots, known as the cauda equina or horse’s tail in Latin. These nerves are located at the lower end of the spinal cord in the lumbosacral spine. They send and receive messages to and from your legs, feet, and pelvic organs.
The condition requires immediate action, in many cases, surgery.
Causes of Cauda Equina Syndrome
CES can occur in children but is far more likely in adults. Generally, in children the condition is a result of a spina deformity at birth, or a spinal injury. In adults, however the main causes include:
- Severely ruptured or herniated disc in the lumbar spine.
- Stenosis or narrowing of the spinal canal.
- Infection or inflammation in the spine.
- Spinal fracture or bone damage.
- Lesion on the spine or tumor.
- A result of an accident or trauma.
- Certain birth defects.
Diagnosing CES is often difficult, as symptoms can vary a great degree and tend to come on slowly. Symptoms can even mimic other conditions. When symptoms do appear however, they include:
- Severe lower back pain.
- Severe pain in the legs and lower body.
- Numbness and muscle weakness in the legs and lower body.
- Odd or altered sensations in the legs, buttocks, inner thighs, and feet.
- Bladder or bowl issues.
- Incontinence – inability to hold in urine.
- Sexual dysfunction.
Cauda equina syndrome is a condition in which there is extensive pressure placed on the nerves. Often, surgery must be performed quickly in order to avoid permanent damage such as the possibility of paralysis of the legs or lower body, loss of bladder control, sexual dysfunction and more.
Depending on the specific cause of your CES, different treatment options are necessary.
Non-Surgical Options includes:
- Antibiotics – if you are suffering from an infection.
- Corticosteroids – to reduce swelling in the spine.
- Radiation or Chemotherapy
The goal of surgery for CES is to relieve the reasoning for the spinal compression.
- Discectomy Surgery
- Decompression Surgery
For more information on Cauda Equina Syndrome, other spinal conditions, or to schedule a consultation, contact Dr. Arutyunyan today.