Back Care Awareness Week runs from 3 to 11 October 2016 and is organised by BackCare, the charity for healthier backs. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of the problems back pain can cause, as well as prevention and treatments.
Back pain includes sore muscles and tendons, slipped discs, fractures and other problems affecting the back. It can develop over a long period of time, or can result from an accident or heavy lifting. Poor posture, overexertion, sitting incorrectly and lifting things incorrectly can be contributory factors.
Recent reports suggest that as many as eight out of ten people in the UK will suffer from back pain at some point during their lives. Around 5.6 million working days in the UK are lost each year due to back pain, second only to stress.
This Back Care Awareness Week, Penningtons Manches wants to shine a light on a rare but very serious back condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome.
The Cauda Equina are the nerves located at the base of the spinal cord involved in lower limb sensation and pelvic function. Cauda Equina Syndrome is a neurological condition that usually arises from a slipped disc in the spine which compresses these sensitive nerves. If the compression is not identified quickly and resolved (through surgery to remove the pressure), permanent damage can be caused leading to altered lower body sensation, problems with mobility, and bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction. The impact of these disabilities is often life-changing.
Cauda Equina Syndrome can develop very quickly and there is a short window of opportunity to treat it effectively. Therefore prompt medical action is vital. However, since it is relatively rare and often preceded by ‘routine’ back pain, it can be missed – with devastating consequences.
Symptoms which should prompt urgent action include loss of sensation in the lower limbs, numbness in the buttocks, loss of genital sensation and bladder and bowel problems. These are often referred to as “red flag” symptoms which should alert medical practitioners that this could be a serious neurological problem caused by spinal cord compression, rather than just progressive back pain.
Lucie Prothero, a solicitor in Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team who specialises in Cauda Equina Syndrome cases, commented: “Back pain is an extremely common problem shared by many of us in the UK. It is often progressive, with patients seeing medical practitioners repeatedly with pain and associated sciatica over a period of time.
“We see a number of sad cases where the warning signs of possible Cauda Equina Syndrome are missed in patients who have a history of back pain. This can lead to delayed diagnosis and surgery to stop the spinal cord compression and prevent life-changing outcomes, such as permanent loss of bladder, bowel and sexual function. For this reason, it is essential that if individuals start to develop symptoms, they seek urgent medical advice and that their concerns are taken seriously.”
For more information on Cauda Equina Syndrome and / or pursuing a legal claim for the management of Cauda Equina Syndrome, click here.