Lower back pain can have any number of causes, and many forms will improve without surgical intervention. However, this is not the case with all back pain. Among the more severe causes of lumbar pain exists cauda equina syndrome. This article will give you the knowledge necessary to decide if this syndrome is responsible for your symptoms.
What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
The cauda equina is a bundle of nerves at the terminus of the spinal cord. This collection of nerves innervates the bladder, legs, and pelvic region. Cauda equina syndrome occurs when these nerves are compressed to the point that they can no longer provide proper motor or sensory functionality to the above-mentioned areas. The compression further leads to lower back pain for most patients.
Typically, this compression is brought on instantaneously, as it is typically caused by sudden trauma to the area. Most commonly, a severely herniated disc is responsible, though other causes may include:
- impact injuries
- complications from disc surgeries
- growths on the spinal cord
While birth defects can contribute to the development of this condition, anyone can fall victim to lumbar trauma. As such, cauda equina syndrome has the potential to impact any demographic.
The symptoms of this syndrome are very similar to those of other conditions, particularly those which present with a herniated disc. While no singular symptom can guarantee the presence of cauda equina syndrome, there are several features which indicate the possibility that CES is the cause of your symptoms.
Severe back pain, motor or sensory loss in the lower extremities, problems with sexual functioning, and recent-onset bowel or bladder dysfunction are indicative of CES. In addition, pain may radiate from the back into the hip and leg area.
If you are concerned that your symptoms are caused by CES, the next step is to get an official diagnosis. This can be done either through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or through a myelogram. These imaging methods will allow us to see whether the cauda equina is being compressed. If left untreated, CES may lead to permanent paralysis and dysfunction of the bladder and bowels
Because of its traumatic origin, cauda equina syndrome should be treated with urgency. In several studies, patients have been shown to have better outcomes when surgery is preformed as soon as possible following the initial onset. It is widely held that surgery should occur within 48 hours of the onset.
Regardless, symptoms can only be eased through surgically decompressing the nerve bundle, and significant improvement has been seen in patients who have had the surgery after the 48-hour mark.
In addition to surgery, the nerve pain associated with cauda equina syndrome may require prescription medication to manage.
Because the amount of compression and the expediency of surgery are so critical to the treatment of CES, outcomes can vary. Most will see significant improvement in motor function and sensation upon treatment, but some symptoms may linger or persist indefinitely.
If you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from cauda equina syndrome, reach out to our clinic. Time is of the essence, and the more proactive the treatment, the higher the likelihood the patient can make a full recovery. Regardless of what is causing your symptoms, we can help ensure that you receive expert treatment and are on the road to recovery. If you are concerned about CES, please visit our site to schedule an appointment.