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A bundle of nerves extends downward from the bottom of the spinal cord, through the lower back bones (vertebrae) and over the bone at the base of the spine (sacrum). This bundle is called the cauda equina, which means horse’s tail in Latin, because that is what the bundle looks like.
The cauda equina may be compressed by a ruptured or herniated disk, a tumor, or an abscess. It may be damaged by an injury or swell because it becomes inflamed (as occurs in ankylosing spondylitis). The symptoms that result are called the cauda equina syndrome.