Cauda equina syndrome

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Cauda equina syndrome is a condition which occurs when the nerves at the base of the spinal cord are squeezed together. It can cause pain in the lower back and/or legs, weakness in one or both legs, numbness in the buttocks, between inner thighs/in or around your back passage (the ‘saddle region’) or in legs. It can also cause problems with bladder or bowel control and sexual function. It is a rare condition but you need to seek emergency medical help if you have any symptoms of cauda equina.

The term relates to the lower end of the spinal cord, where the nerves fan out into a bundle of fibres that looks like a horse’s tail (‘cauda equina’ is Latin for ‘horse tail’). These nerve fibres leave the spinal canal through holes between each vertebra (the bones in your back).

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