Cauda Equina Syndrome Day: Causes and Symptoms

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Kate McCue

Medical Negligence Associate Solicitor

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Cauda Equina Syndrome can occur when the nerves at the base of the spine are compressed. It can have a devastating impact on a person’s life, potentially causing life-changing injury, paralysis and incontinence if it’s not treated straight away.

In 2020 we saw the first ever international awareness day for Cauda Equina Syndrome held by the Cauda Equina Champions Charity. Now, the often-misunderstood condition is marked each year on 1st October.

Thanks to the awareness day, the Cauda Equina Champions Charity have seen an increase in support and financial donations. Crucially, more and more people are becoming aware of the condition and how to spot the symptoms and red flags. Being able to identify the symptoms as soon as they begin is vital as it allows you to seek the right treatment straight away.

To help spread more awareness of Cauda Equina Syndrome, our team of Medical Negligence Solicitors want to do our bit in highlighting the causes, symptoms and effects of this painful condition. Do you know the signs and red flags of Cauda Equina Syndrome? If not, read this article to learn more.

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What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?

At the lower end of the spinal cord is a bunch of nerves called cauda equina. If it sounds like it belongs on a horse, that is because the nerves do resemble a horse’s tail.

These nerves travel from the spinal cord, through the lower back and into the pelvic regions of the spine. They serve an important function as they provide motor and sensory function to the lower part of the body, such as the buttocks, perineum, and legs.

Due to the position of the nerves, they can cause pain in the back and legs if they become compressed by a herniated disc, spinal infection, tumour, or trauma to the lower back.

a drip being fed into a patient's hand

Symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome

The symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome are often extremely painful and require immediate medical attention.

Warning signs of Cauda Equina Syndrome can include:

  • Pain in the lower back
  • Weakness in both legs that gradually gets worse
  • Abnormal bladder and bowel functions
  • Loss of feeling around the buttocks or genitals

If you start showing these symptoms, they could possibly mean you have Cauda Equina Syndrome. Cauda Equina Syndrome is a medical emergency, so don’t delay getting medical attention, as you’re more likely to make a full recovery if you’re diagnosed sooner rather than later.

What Causes Cauda Equina?

Cauda Equina Syndrome can be caused by:

  • Spinal injury or trauma
  • A tumour in the spine
  • Infection
  • A herniated disc

The symptoms of CES can be sudden and severe, so obtaining early diagnosis and treatment is crucial. If you experience any of these signs, you should seek medical help immediately.

Cauda Equina symptoms can be treated if they’re detected early enough, but if the warning signs aren’t spotted, a person can be left with life-changing injuries. The sooner you act the better, as it is thought that surgery is most successful within 24-48 hours of experiencing the symptoms.

a man's back with a red mark showing a pained area

How We Can Help You 

While it is a very serious condition, the symptoms of back pain and numbness can be difficult to demonstrate to GPs and doctors. It can be hard to advocate for your health when it comes to these symptoms, as they are often explained away by lifestyle factors.

A missed diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome could lead to delayed treatment and worsening of symptoms.

If doctors failed to identify and treat Cauda Equina Syndrome after you presented with symptoms, or test results were misinterpreted, you could claim compensation. A financial settlement can help you can access vital treatment and long-term support to make life with the condition that bit easier.

You may also have a claim if you developed Cauda Equina Syndrome because of negligent surgery.

Our expert Medical Negligence Solicitors offer a free claims assessment, and we’d be happy to speak with you about your situation and discuss whether you may have a claim. A Simpson Millar specialist in this area of law can arrange for you to be assessed by a wide variety of independent medical experts. With their expert knowledge, they can compile detailed reports on your condition and give their professional views on the treatment you were given.

With the right compensation settlement in place, you can get the care, rehabilitation and support you need. A successful claim can help you recover any financial losses, such as lost earnings, prescription charges, and the cost of home adaptations.

It’s our aim to help you get justice for wrong medical decisions and missed opportunities to treat your condition. Contact Simpson Millar today and we can get you started on the road to recovery as soon as possible. Our trusted network of independent medical experts, including physiotherapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, and urologists, who can help prove that you received substandard medical care, and that this directly caused the health problems you’ve had since.

It is our aim to help as many people as possible get the care and treatment they deserve. We want to make sure that if medical negligence has occurred, the NHS will learn lessons for the future, so the same mistakes don’t happen again. That’s why we’re determined to work with the NHS to settle medical negligence claims, using methods such as Mediation to encourage constructive dialogue and positive outcomes for our clients.

Case Study: £145,000 Compensation for Cauda Equina Medical Negligence

We represented a woman whose symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome had been missed by an orthopaedic specialist at her local hospital.

Our investigation showed that the orthopaedic doctor hadn’t acted on the information given by an emergency GP, who’d recorded a partial left-sided saddle block. As a result, our client hadn’t been referred for an emergency MRI scan and diagnosed with Cauda Equina Syndrome as early as she could have been.

Because of the delay, our client suffered bladder and bowel complications, and it was another two days before she underwent the surgery she needed. Due to the delay in operating, she suffered completely avoidable bladder and bowel problems, which affected her job and her relationship with her husband.

The NHS Trust responsible denied fault at first, but eventually acknowledged that the hospital didn’t spot the warning signs of Cauda Equina Syndrome when she presented at hospital. With our help, our client was awarded £145,000 compensation.

We want to see fewer mistakes like this happening in NHS hospitals, and for clinicians to be able to recognise the warning signs of this terrible condition and act appropriately without delay.

That’s why our Medical Negligence Solicitors always aim to work with the NHS to settle compensation claims, rather than against it. By working collaboratively with healthcare professionals, we can not only get the best outcomes for our clients, but also help to make sure that the mistakes that led to problems being missed aren’t repeated. We strive to ensure that lessons are learned within the healthcare industry.

We’ve seen many cases like yours, and our friendly team will be on hand to help you settle this in an amicable manner. With many wins under our belt, we’re confident that we will be able to give you the legal advice and support needed.

We’ll ensure you understand your unique circumstances around a claim, the chances of a successful claim and how to best work together to bring justice.

We’re going to ensure you’re informed all the way through, so you’re not left guessing what is happening with your claim. As members of the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence Accreditation Scheme, we are placed in a well-respected position to bring your claim forward. We can also work on this on a No Win, No Fee basis.

If you’re worried about bringing a medical negligence claim forward, we want to reassure you, that we will try to make it as stress-free as possible. We’re here to ensure you are compensated correctly for the sake of your recovery and wellbeing.

If you’re ready to talk about your claim, we can start with a no obligation claims assessment first, and you can book this in by calling us for free on 0808 239 6043 or simply fill in the online form and someone will get back to you.


Cauda Equina Champions Charity. (n.d.). CES Awareness Day. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Jan. 2024]. (n.d.). Cauda Equina Syndrome | Symptoms, Treatment and Recovery. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Jan. 2024]. (n.d.). Medical Negligence | Making a complaint against the NHS. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Jan. 2024].

Kate McCue

Medical Negligence Associate Solicitor

Areas of Expertise:
Medical Negligence

Kate joined the Clinical Negligence department at Simpson Millar in January 2023 after previously working at Chris Kallis Solicitors in Plymouth. Kate qualified as a solicitor in 2004 and has developed extensive experience in both Personal Injury and Medical Negligence.   

Initially Kate started working as a Defendant Solicitor for firms such as Bond Pearce LLP and DAC Beachcroft Claims Ltd. This has allowed Kate to develop a tactical advantage to her cases, using the experience of how a claim is dealt with from a Defendant’s perspective. 

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