Cauda Equina SyndromeThe term comes from Latin that means horse’s tail. The cauda equina forms the group of nerves that run through the lumbar spinal canal. Generally, the condition means two things:
- There is nerve compression of most of the lumbar spinal canal
- Compression symptoms like numbness or weakness in the leg/s
Sneaky PresentationOne of the major factors is long-term compression that individuals do not realize they have. Individuals are more likely to be aware of symptoms from another spinal condition before cauda equina syndrome presents. However, the condition presents quickly but often other overlapping back problems mask cauda equina syndrome.
CausesThe syndrome can be brought on from anything that compresses the nerves. Most commonly, it is a root compression from degenerative processes, specifically lumbar disc herniations. Other causes include:
- Bleeding like an epidural hematoma
- Trauma like fractures or penetrating trauma
- Tumors growing in the canal or the collapse of a tumor-affected bone
- Disc herniations can progressively grow in size, which leads to a slowly-evolving cauda equina syndrome.
- An enlarging disc herniation or synovial cyst can further compromise the already compressed nerves.
- Overgrowth of arthritic joints or bone spurs into the spinal canal can lead to long-term compression.
SymptomsThe symptoms vary based on the degree that the spinal canal has been affected:
- Back pain
- Leg pain
- Saddle numbness that extends into other areas of the legs
- Neurogenic bladder dysfunction. This can range from difficulty starting to urinate or limited and/or non-voluntary control urinating.
- Bowel dysfunction
- Sexual dysfunction