Pressure on the lower spinal nerves called the cauda equina can cause a wide range of symptoms referred to as cauda equina syndrome (CES). There can be back and leg pain, numbness in the legs, bowel and bladder problems and sexual dysfunction.
Studies show that continued recovery from these problems has been observed after surgery for CES. Gradual improvement for up to three to four years after the operation has been reported. Decompressive surgery is done to take pressure off the cauda equina. In the case of a herniated disc, this can be done by removing the disc, a procedure called discectomy.
According to a recent review of CES, one-third did not get back to normal. Urinary incontinence (leaking or dribbling urine) was the most common problem before and after surgery. Other problems with bladder control included difficulty starting a flow of urine and urine retention.