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Back pain: Signs and symptoms of a more serious condition?

Approximately one in six people in England suffer from back pain. Although it's very common, it can very easily tip into the territory of being something more serious.

What is cauda equina syndrome?

One of the rare but serious causes of back pain is cauda equina syndrome (CES). CES occurs when the nerve roots in your lower back are compressed. The nerves affected provide motor and sensory function to the legs, bladder and bowel.

Common symptoms include:

  • Numbness or weakness in both of your legs;
  • Difficulty when trying to urinate or a loss of sensation;
  • Loss of sensation when you pass a bowel motion;
  • Loss of feeling / numbness in your genital area

Treatment and recovery

Typically, surgical decompression is required as soon as possible to reduce the pressure on the impacted nerves and to prevent permanent damage.

The longer that cauda equina syndrome is left untreated, the higher the probability that it will lead to permanent paralysis and incontinence.

Sadly at Irwin Mitchell we see a number of cases where cauda equina syndrome has not been diagnosed as quickly as it should, leading to permanent injury and a huge impact on ordinary daily life.

In one case, a client who was aged in his 20s at the time, suffered back pain after carrying out some heavy lifting. He struggled to leave his bed the following day. He attended A&E the same day, but unfortunately his signs and symptoms of CES were not recognised and acted upon. 

Our client became incontinent of urine and underwent lumbar decompression surgery three days later. 

He was fortunate to make a good recovery in terms of his urinary incontinence which resolved. However, he was left with a permanent disabling neurological injury. His mobility was significantly impacted and he now requires a crutch to walk outside the home. He also requires significant care and assistance from his family to support him with cleaning, cooking and dressing.  He now has to primarily work from home. 

Thankfully, our team of expert lawyers at Irwin Mitchell successfully secured a settlement to support our client for the rest of his life.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in supporting people who have suffered from cauda equina syndrome at our dedicated CES webpage.