Tethered Cord syndrome refers to an abnormality at the end of the spinal cord called the conus by inelastic tissue , usually the filum terminale, which exits from the conus and ends at the tailbone (sacrum) and limits movement. This affects the function of the spinal nerves and the conus. This is usually a developmental problem related to the closure of the neural tube in the embryo before birth and is associated with Spina Bifida. Most people who have this problem are detected in childhood. Adult tethered cord is far less common. Some cases in adults could be acquired as a result of infection followed by scarring, tumors and injury for example.
Although back pain and leg pain can be symptoms of tethered cord it should be pointed out that far more common causes are Musculoskeletal pain from the muscles and joints of the spine from injury, inflammation or degeneration. Other symptoms include progressive sensory and motor weakness that may affect the legs causing numbness, weakness and sometimes obvious muscle wasting or atrophy. Bladder and bowel disturbance with increased frequency, urgency an even incontinence and constipation may occur.
In the absence of MRI findings of a tethered cord caution should be exercised about treating it with surgery.