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Lower Back Pain and Cauda Equina Syndrome

Lower back pain is a common problem that many people in the UK live with. Normally no surgical intervention is required. However, in rare cases lower back pain will be the first sign of cauda equina syndrome, a medical emergency that requires immediate surgical treatment.

Back pain and spinal nerve compression

Cauda equina syndrome is when the nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord are compressed. This can happen in a variety of ways, with a slipped lumbar disc being one of the most common causes.

When pressure is placed upon the nerves, a number of symptoms will occur. This will vary in intensity from person to person, and may come on gradually or very suddenly. For more, the very first symptom will be lower back pain. This may radiate down through the buttocks and into one or both legs.

This lower back pain will become increasingly severe, after which other symptoms will also arise. These include bladder dysfunction, numbness in the perineum, leg weakness and sexual dysfunction.

Diagnosing cauda equina syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because generalised lower back pain is a common problem that has many possible causes, most of which do not require immediate treatment.

Therefore it is often the case that people with cauda equina syndrome are wrongly diagnosed with generalised lower back pain. Most will then be referred on to a physiotherapist and/or given pain-relief.

However, this will be very troubling because cauda equina syndrome is a condition that requires urgent surgical intervention. Otherwise the nerves will come under sustained pressure, and within a short space of time will become irreparably damaged.

It is therefore imperative that medical professionals look for any other signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of spinal nerve compression.

Cauda equina syndrome medical negligence

When a patient presents with generalised lower back pain, a doctor should determine whether there is any bladder dysfunction, perineal numbness, loss of anal tone and lower limb weakness.

If these problems are not at play, it may be safe to dismiss cauda equina syndrome from the list of differential diagnoses. If they develop at a later date, they should be noted and action taken immediately. If the other red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome are present when a patient attends complaining of lower back pain, no time should be wasted in carrying out further tests.

If there is a failure to identify the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome and this causes a delay in treatment, there will be grounds for a medical negligence compensation claim. To find out more, please get in touch with us today.

Please call us free on 0800 234 3300, from a mobile click to call 01275 334030 or complete our Free Online Enquiry for a no cost, no obligation opinion.

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