Tethered cord, also called tethered spinal cord syndrome, occurs when the spinal cord abnormally attaches to tissue inside the spinal canal, usually at the base of the spine. This keeps the spinal cord from moving freely, leading to stretching and tension that can cause nerve damage.
Tethered cord is often a birth defect, though symptoms sometimes don't emerge until adulthood.
- Birth defects such as spina bifida
- Scar tissue from a spinal cord injury
- Spinal cysts called syringomyelia or spinal syrinx
Symptoms in adults
- Severe lower back pain that spreads to the legs and groin
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen; painkillers such as codeine or hydrocodone; or other medication such as celecoxib can help.
Surgery to untether or free the spinal cord may be recommended in some cases to prevent permanent nerve damage. It’s generally best to have surgery as soon as possible, before the condition gets worse.