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

If you are experiencing the symptoms described in this article, seek immediate medical attention as you may have a serious condition that could leave you permanently disabled. Possible symptoms include:

  • Numbness in the groin
  • Pain in one or both legs that mimic 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 the loss of bladder or bowel control, may result in cauda equina syndrome. This occurs when an injury, illness or degenerative condition exerts pressure on the cauda equina — a bundle of nerves at the base of the spinal column. Patients experiencing CES will often receive emergency treatment because of the urgent nature of this syndrome.

These nerve roots communicate impulses to and from the legs and pelvic organs. If their signal paths are interrupted by a spine condition like spinal stenosis or a 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 debilitating issues.

Causes of lower back pain and bladder or bowel dysfunction

Lower back pain and problems with the bladder or bowel may result from spine conditions such as a disc herniation or spinal stenosis, 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 surround the spinal cord
  • A severe spinal injury, such as a fractured vertebra
  • A birth defect

Many of the symptoms associated with 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, it is imperative to consult a doctor immediately.

Treatments for nonemergency lower back pain

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 doctor may recommend seeing if you are a candidate for surgery. Unlike traditional open neck or back surgery, the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute uses a small 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 and shorter recovery time compared to traditional open spine surgery.^ The minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures performed at our state-of-the-art facilities have helped more than 75,000 people find relief from chronic neck and back pain.

Contact team at Laser Spine Institute for your no-cost MRI review* and take the next step toward pain relief.