What Causes Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome is caused by pressure on a bundle of nerve roots that extends from the lower end of the spinal cord (sacrum) into your back and legs.

Compression of these nerves can cause many problems including bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction, leg weakness, and pain. Fortunately, prompt surgery can prevent permanent damage and restore function.

Herniated disc

When a herniated disc presses on the nerve roots in the cauda equina, it may cause the condition known as cauda equina syndrome. This is a serious spine problem that can lead to permanent paralysis or problems with bladder or bowel control.

A herniated disc happens when the center of a disc (the gel-like filling inside a hard, tough outer shell) leaks through a weak spot and puts pressure on nearby spinal nerves. The pain and numbness can spread from the lower back (lumbar spine) to your buttocks, legs, or feet.

The symptoms usually get worse when you are active and better when you are resting. Coughing, sneezing, driving, and sitting for long periods put extra pressure on the pinched nerves, Check out this site.

Early diagnosis is important for avoiding complications, such as incontinence and leg weakness that may be permanent. Imaging tests can help your doctor determine what is causing the compression. These include x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computerized tomography (CT) scans.

Spinal stenosis

Cauda equina syndrome is the result of pressure on nerve roots that branch off from the spinal cord in your lower back (lumbar spine). It may be caused by spinal stenosis, disk herniation, a tumor, or a fracture.

The pressure on nerve roots can lead to numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation. It is a painful condition that can become permanent if it’s not treated quickly enough to relieve the pressure on the nerves.

If you have this problem, you should see a doctor right away. You might need surgery to remove the material that is pressing on the nerves.

Early surgery to make more room for the nerves gives you the best chance of recovery of sensory and muscle function as well as bowel and bladder control. Even with early treatment, you might not regain complete function, but it depends on how much damage has occurred.

A diagnostic test for cauda equina syndrome is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). It can show pressure on the nerve roots, as well as on intervertebral discs and ligaments.

Spinal tumor

When a spinal tumor presses on the cauda equina, it can cause cauda equina syndrome. This is a serious condition that can result in weakness, numbness or paralysis of one or both legs and problems with bowel or bladder control.

A spinal tumor can occur in any part of the spine, including the vertebrae, the conus medullaris and the nerve roots (cauda equina). The most common types are ependymomas and astrocytomas.

In most cases, spinal tumors are secondary tumors arising from cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. For example, breast cancer, lungs cancer and prostate cancer are common causes of secondary spinal tumors.

If a tumor is causing cauda equina Syndrome, it can be treated with decompression surgery to relieve the pressure on the nerves in the cauda equina. Other treatments include medications to reduce the pain or swelling, and radiation and chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells in the area.


A spinal trauma may cause compression of the cauda equina nerve roots at the base and below the spinal cord in the lumbosacral spine. These nerve roots send and receive messages to and from the legs, bladder, and bowels.

In the long run, the pressure on these nerves can lead to permanent damage to the body causing problems such as paralysis in one or both legs (leg weakness), bladder and bowel dysfunction, sexual function and other health issues.

Prompt treatment can prevent this. Surgical decompression of the affected nerves can be done within 48 hours of symptom onset, providing the best chances for recovery and preventing a recurrence of symptoms.


Individuals who experience sudden severe symptoms of cauda equina syndrome require surgery as soon as possible to treat the condition before it gets worse. This is especially true if the injury occurred recently.

Bill Sutton
What Causes Cauda Equina Syndrome?