Lower back pain and problems with bladder or bowels — get help immediately

If you are experiencing the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention as you may have a serious condition that could leave you permanently disabled:

  • 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

These symptoms together can indicate a serious condition that requires emergency medical attention.

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 paths are interrupted — for instance, by a spine condition like spinal stenosis or herniated disc — immediate treatment is necessary to avoid permanent damage. The resulting damage may include paralysis of the legs, impaired bowel or bladder control, chronic lower back pain, problems with sexual function and other issues.

Patients experiencing CES will often receive emergency treatment because of the urgent nature of this syndrome.

Possible causes of cauda equina syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome may result from spine conditions such as disc herniation, spinal stenosis or others, depending on the location. Other causes may 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 spinal cord
  • A severe spinal injury, such as a fractured vertebra
  • A birth defect

Many of the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome are similar to those of other conditions that cause lower back pain. If you experience the range of symptoms above — particularly the loss of bowel/bladder control — you should seek immediate medical attention.


If your back pain is the result of a spine condition that does not require emergency treatment, and nonsurgical treatment has not relieved your symptoms, your physician may recommend surgery.

Unlike traditional open neck or back surgery, the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute uses a less than 1-inch incision to help people get their lives back from chronic neck or back pain.

Our minimally invasive outpatient procedures also lead to a lower risk of complication, shorter recovery time^ and no overnight hospitalization compared to traditional open spine surgery.

Our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures have helped more than 75,000 people find relief from chronic neck and back pain. Contact our team at Laser Spine Institute for your no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures and take the next step toward pain relief.