In order to understand cauda equina syndrome, you must first become familiar with the anatomy of the spinal cord. As most of you know, the spinal cord is basically an extension of the brain that is located in the spinal canal. When the spinal cord reaches about the level of the waist it separates into a group of long nerves that resemble a horse’s tail. As a result, anatomists named this area of the spinal cord the cauda equina which literally means horses tail in latin.
Cauda equina syndrome occurs when a herniated disk in the lower back compresses the entire cauda equina. In most cases, patients suffering from cauda equina syndrome will experience moderate to severe pain in the lower back with associated neurological symptoms. Saddle anesthesia which is the progressive loss of sensation in areas that would typically touch a saddle such as the inner thighs, back of legs and rectal region is commonly reported by patients. In addition, individuals may also experience bowel or bladder dysfunction which may include difficulty with urination or incontinence.
It is very important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you are experiencing cauda equina syndrome as emergency decompressive surgery may be required to avoid permanent weakness or paralysis of pelvis and lower limbs.
In most cases, your doctor will be able to diagnosis cauda equina syndrome by taking a detailed medical history and performing a physical examination. If needed, your doctor will also order diagnostic tests such as CT scans and MRI to better visualize the injured area.
Surgery to fix cauda equina syndrome usually involves a surgeon removing parts of the herniated disc that are pressing the nerves in order to relieve pressure. However, if surgery is not required, conservative treatment such as physical therapy, massage and chiropractic may be recommended. To add to this, medications to reduce pain, inflation and muscle