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Have I Got Cauda Equina Syndrome Or Sciatica?

Cauda equina syndrome is often misdiagnosed as sciatica. So what is the difference between the two? Have you got cauda equina syndrome? Or have you got sciatica?

Sciatica

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It runs from the lower back, through the buttocks and down the legs to the feet. If the nerve is compressed or irritated at any point, it will lead to an array of symptoms, including:

When these symptoms arise due to the irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, a person is said to have sciatica. This irritation can be caused by a number of factors, including a slipped disc or spinal stenosis.

Ordinarily sciatica can be treated conservatively with painkillers and physiotherapy. If there is an underlying problem such as a slipped disc, surgery may be recommended. However, sciatica is not in itself a medical emergency. It will be very painful for the individual concerned, but otherwise it will not lead to any long-term complications.

Cauda equina syndrome

The cauda equina nerves are located at the base of the spine. They are a bundle of nerves which begin in the lower back and spread down through the pelvis and buttocks. The sciatic nerve sits close by.

If the cauda equina nerves are compressed, it will lead to a variety of symptoms which are very similar to sciatica. Indeed, there will be all the aforementioned symptoms of lower back pain, tingling and muscle weakness. As such, sciatica is often named as one of the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome.

Nevertheless, cauda equina syndrome is also associated with other symptoms which distinguish the condition. These include:

These symptoms set cauda equina syndrome apart from sciatica and should help doctors make an accurate diagnosis. Cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency, so once diagnosed no time should be wasted in sending a patient to theatre for decompression surgery.

Cauda equina syndrome mistaken for sciatica

If your cauda equina syndrome was mistaken for sciatica, causing your treatment to be delayed, you could be entitled to claim compensation. Contact us for more information.

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