The Culprit of Severe Lower Back Pain: Cauda Equina Syndrome

The Culprit of Severe Lower Back Pain: Cauda Equina Syndrome

Lower back pain isn’t new news. In fact, back pain affects up to 80% of the population at some point in their lives. Between an increase in sedentary jobs and trouble with posture, it’s not too difficult to develop back discomfort at some point. However, if your lower back pain becomes severe, you may have cause for worry. 

When back pain increases in intensity and doesn’t get better, it could indicate a condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome. When left untreated, this syndrome can lead to permanent paralysis— obviously one to be taken seriously and acted upon quickly. Yet, many people don’t even know that it exists.

In this case, knowledge truly is power. If you’re experiencing severe back pain, this article can help you determine how to move forward for the best possible healing outcome. 

What Is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

Since most have likely not heard of Cauda Equina Syndrome, let’s first break down what this condition entails. The cauda equina is a sack of nerve roots that is situated at the lower end of the spinal cord. These nerve roots control your ability to function and feel with your extremities. When this sack becomes compressed, it causes major disruptions to motor and sensory function, known as Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES).

Though severe lower back pain is the most common indicator and symptom of CES, other symptoms can include motor weakness, sensory loss, bladder dysfunction or incontinence, or a loss of extremity reflexes. These symptoms can vary in intensity and even evolve slowly over an extended period of time. Your experience with specific symptoms will depend on exactly which nerves are being compressed.  Should you start noticing any of these indicators together, you should be on high alert. 

Causes Of CES

CES usually doesn’t happen overnight. The compression of the cauda equina can come from several different causes, some of them from general wear and tear. For instance, an untreated herniated disc or spinal stenosis can lead to further compression that could put you at risk for developing CES. 

In the case of a disc herniation, the soft center portion of the disc (the pillow-like pad that sits between your vertebrae) is pushed through the outer cartilage edge. When this herniation occurs, that soft, herniated center can begin to push on the various nerve endings that run through your spine, resulting in back, neck, and glute discomfort. If this compression goes untreated, it can get worse and eventually even lead to CES. 

The other condition referenced, spinal stenosis, is characterized by a narrowing of the spaces within your spine. This narrowing puts pressure on some of the nerves that control motor and sensory function. If spinal stenosis goes untreated, the narrowing and resulting pressure on the spine can continue to compound. This makes spinal stenosis another precursor to CES. 

Lastly, CES can also be triggered by a traumatic accident. If you’ve had a recent violent injury to your back, were in a bad accident, or had recent lumbar surgery, you could develop CES from these incidents. 

Does this give you a little more incentive to stay on top of back injuries? It should! 

How Do You Treat CES?

Treatment for CES will heavily depend on the severity of the diagnosis, which means obtaining a proper medical diagnosis is all the more important. Treatment for many cases of CES does require emergency care. 

If CES goes untreated, it can result in permanent paralysis. If you’re experiencing severe lower back pain, get a medical evaluation as soon as possible

Chiropractic Evaluation And Treatment For Back Conditions

If you’re experiencing severe lower back pain, a chiropractic evaluation is a smart first step. Chiropractic practitioners are expertly trained in all matters concerning the spine, and will be able to properly diagnose the root cause of your lower back pain– including the possibility of CES.

If your symptoms do indicate Cauda Equina Syndrome, a chiropractor can refer you to the necessary medical professionals and put you on a fast-track for treatment. If your pain is caused by another condition, such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, your chiropractor will prepare a customized treatment plan and provide necessary treatment, including spinal adjustments. Either way, your practitioner can play a vital role in determining the root cause of your symptoms and ensuring that you receive the right care, at the right time. 

Regardless of your final diagnosis, a chiropractor is a tremendous resource if you’re worried about your back health.

Schedule an appointment online or call us today. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.