Cauda Equina Definition

The cauda equina is a descriptive Latin term referring to the bundle of nerve roots from the lumbar and sacral levels that branch off the bottom of the spinal cord like a "horse’s tail."

The spinal cord doesn't actually run down the entire length of the spine; instead, it runs from the top of the neck down through the top of the lumbar spine (L1).

Starting at this level of the lower spine, the nerves and nerve roots continue down the length of the vertebral column. These individual nerve roots provide motor and sensory function to the legs and bladder.

Cauda Equina Syndrome

A large disc herniation in the lumbar region can result in cauda equina syndrome in which a herniated disc compresses on the nerve roots in the area, causing severe low back pain, bladder incontinence and loss of motor and sensory function in both legs.

Patients with the above symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.