What is Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES)?

Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is a condition that occurs when the bundle of nerves below the end of the spinal cord known as the cauda equina is damaged. The term Cauda Equina means ‘horses tail’ in Latin and describes the spray of nerves that come off the bottom of the spinal cord and activate the bladder, bowel, sexual organs and legs. When these nerves are compressed or damaged the impact on the sufferer can be devastating. Signs and symptoms of CES include lower back pain, pain that radiates down the leg, and loss of bowel or bladder control.

What causes CES?

  • Back/Spine problems such as a slipped disc
  • Tumours near the spine
  • Injuries


What are the warning signs? 


S – Saddle Anaesthesia

Weakness, tingling or numbness in your ‘saddle region’- the parts of your body that would touch the saddle if you were sitting on a horse. Upper inner thighs, groin, buttocks and genitals

P – Pain

Pain, weakness tingling or numbness in your lower back, backs of thighs, lower legs and feet.

I – Incontinence

Loss of control, urgency or finding it hard to pee or poo. Any strange sensation or numbness when you pee or poo

N – Numbness

Numbness in your lower back, backs of thighs, lower legs and feet. Loss of feeling around your groin during sex

E – Emergency

Any of these can be a warning sign of CES. Go to your GP or Emergency Department without delay.

CES is rare and symptoms can be the result of other causes but it is important to get any symptoms checked out.



How is CES diagnosed/treated?

An MRI is necessary to diagnose CES. It can then be treated with surgery to your spine. It is important to treat CES early to help avoid nerve-damage problems like problems with bladder, bowel and sexual function, lasting pain and potential paralysis.

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