I had a ruptured disc at L5-S1 5 years ago, which due to a lumbar spine stenosis cut the nerves and caused loss of nerve sensation and bowel and bladder function. After an emergency lumbar laminectomy (no fusion) I slowly regained about 85% of nerve function and bladder function. I did not regain bowel function and have needed to use laxatives regularly since. I retained some numbness in my left foot and calf and to a lesser degree in my right. After working hard for five years to fully compensate, I began having recurring symptoms about 4 months ago, which included increasing thigh and saddle area weakness, along with more difficulty having bowel movements. I have had to strain more during bowel movements, which might be aggravating my back problems. Colonoscopy and GI series have ruled out intestinal obstructions. I have since had two lumbar MRIs with contrast and a thoracic and cervical MRI, as well as a lateral lumbar spine x-ray with flexion extension. The results indicate slight herniations in two lumbar discs and considerable scar tissue, but everyone is certain it is not enough to cause the new symptoms. The cervical MRI indicates moderate thecal sac compression at C3-C4 and C6-C7 along with mild compression at C5-C6 and C4-C5 due to spinal stenosis and osteophypte formation. I am having an EMG/NCV next week. The full bowel and particularly the bowel movements seriously increase the leg weakness. How can bowels affect nerves and cause leg weakness? Is it probable that the cervical stenosis is causing the leg and bowel problems, or is it more likely to be lumbar?
When a person has to strain to have a bowel movement, this can increase the pressure within the spinal canal, and can make disc bulges temporarily worse. Therefore, this may indicate that the cervical discs are adding to your symptoms. However, without examining you I cannot determine what type of nerve dysfunction you are having. Perhaps a second opinion at a large academic spine center, such as the one at the Cleveland Clinic, would be reasonable. They can evaluate you, review your tests, and then make some recommendations. Good luck.
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