Cauda equina syndrome occurs when there is damage to a group of nerve roots, known as the cauda equina, in your lower back. It is not only extremely unpleasant but potentially life-threatening. Often resulting in numbness, weakness, pain, and discomfort as well as a number of other issues related to the lower back, limbs, urinal and bowel regions, it is rare and commonly misdiagnosed.

Chances are you have not heard of the little-known syndrome before unless someone you know has suffered with it. Here, we examine some of the most common causes of cauda equine syndrome to give you a better understanding.

Lumbar herniated disc

A serious herniated disc in the lumbar region resulting in nerve compression is the most common cause of cauda equina syndrome. This can happen when too much pressure is placed on the lower spine, either from a one-off injury or when a disc has been weakened over time and eventually ruptures.

Spinal stenosis

Stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal, usually in the neck or lumbar region. It is the latter type of spinal stenosis that causes cauda equina syndrome due to the compression on those lower nerve roots.

Spinal tumours or lesions

If you have abnormal growths such as tumours or lesions adjacent to your lower spinal cord, there may be a chance of cauda equina syndrome. Such growths put pressure on the spinal canals, which can damage nerves.

Infections and inflammation

Anything that presses on your spinal canals in the lower region of your back risks damaging the cauda equina and that includes symptoms of infection and inflammation. Inflamed tissue or an abscess, for instance, lead to pressure on the canals.

Birth defects

While it usually affects adults, cauda equina syndrome can occur as a result of birth defects, including spina bifida and abnormal connections between blood vessels.

The full list of cauda equina syndrome causes is much more extensive, but those included above are some of the most common. Click here for more information on the syndrome, such as treatment and related compensation claims.