If you are experiencing numbness in the groin, pain in one or both legs that mimics sciatica, lack of reflex control in the lower half of the body, lower back pain and problems controlling bladder or bowel functions, seek immediate medical attention as you may have a serious condition that could leave you permanently disabled.
What is an emergency back situation?
Lower back pain, in conjunction with loss of bladder or bowel control, may be cauda equina syndrome (CES), which results when an injury, illness or degenerative condition exerts pressure on the cauda equina, a bundle of nerves at the base of the spinal column. These nerve roots communicate impulses to and from the legs and pelvic organs; if their signal path is interrupted (for instance, by spinal stenosis or a herniated disc), immediate treatment is necessary to avert permanent damage that could result in paralysis of the legs, impaired bowel or bladder control, chronic lower back pain, problems with sexual function and other issues. Patients presenting with CES will often receive treatment as emergency cases because of the urgent nature of this syndrome.
Possible causes of cauda equina syndrome
As indicated, cauda equina syndrome may result from conditions such as disc herniation or spinal stenosis, depending on the location. Other causes include:
- Tumors or lesions on the spinal cord or in the cauda equina
- Hemorrhage, swelling, or infection of the spinal cord or the spinal meninges (a sheath of protective membranes that surrounds the cord itself)
- A severe spinal injury, such as a fractured vertebra
- Birth defect
Many of the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome are similar to those of other conditions that cause lower back pain problems. If you experience the range of symptoms above—particularly the loss of bowel/bladder control—seek emergency medical attention immediately.
In the event that your back pain is the result of a less-urgent condition and conservative treatment has not lessened your pain, your physician may suggest that you consider surgery. If this is the case, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive procedures have helped thousands of people find relief from back pain. When you contact us, we can provide you with a free review of your most current CT scan or MRI.