Herniated disc — severely herniated discs can cause cauda equina

While lower back pain is a common condition among the majority of American adults, certain rare cases of lower back pain may be more dangerous than others. In the case of cauda equina, a rare disease caused by the severe compression of a nerve root in the lowest portion of the spine (lumbosacral), immediate surgical attention is needed.

The most common signs of cauda equina are severe lower back pain accompanied by bowel and urination complications, such as incontinence or inability to relieve your bladder or bowels. If you suspect that you have cauda equina, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Causes of cauda equina

Cauda equina can occur from complications of other severe spine conditions that are left untreated. In very rare cases, a child can be born with a birth defect that causes cauda equina syndrome. Most adults who develop this condition have a pre-existing spine condition that has led to cauda equina, such as:

While some of these conditions can be common, such as a herniated disc and spinal stenosis, when left untreated these conditions can worsen. As a condition worsens, there is a possibility that the impacted nerve will become more compressed and lead to the development of cauda equina. You will be able to differentiate common back pain from cauda equina by looking for specific symptoms of the latter condition.

Symptoms of cauda equina

Symptoms of cauda equina differ from the standard back pain symptoms due to severity and additionally impacted areas of the body, such as the pelvic organs. The most common symptoms of cauda equina include:

  • Severe sciatica
  • Inability to urinate
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence
  • Numbness in the pelvic or groin area
  • Weakness and loss of reflexes in the legs
  • Severe pain in lower back and/or extremities

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you need to seek immediate emergency medical attention.

For more information about common back conditions, such as herniated discs or sciatica, contact our Care Team at Laser Spine Institute. We can help you determine your spine condition and the treatment options available to you to find relief.

Browse Related Resources