Cauda Equina Syndrome: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

Cauda equina syndrome is a condition that results from compression or pinching of the nerve roots at the end of the spinal cord (cauda equina). Cauda equina syndrome has multiple possible causes and can occur due to any condition that results in direct irritation of the nerves at the end of the spinal cord, including herniation of intervertebral discs in the low back, tumors adjacent to the lower spinal cord, localized infection near the spinal cord (epidural abscess), and localized bleeding (epidural hematoma).

Signs and symptoms of cauda equina syndrome include low back pain, tingling or numbness in the legs or buttocks, weakness in the legs, and incontinence of bladder (urinary incontinence) and/or bowels (fecal incontinence). Numbness may occur in the distribution of where the body would touch a saddle when sitting upon a horse and is referred to as "saddle anesthesia."

Causes of cauda equina syndrome

Herniated vertebral discs, abnormal growths near the lower spinal cord, and localized infection near the spinal cord that puts pressure on the spinal cord can cause cauda equina syndrome.

Other cauda equina syndrome symptoms and signs


Nearly everyone has low back pain at some time during their life. See Answer

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.