What are the symptoms of Arachnoiditis?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jul 31, 2014

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Quick Bites

  • It is a pain disorder affecting the arachnoid membrane
  • It usually causes severe pain in the lower back or legs
  • May also cause spasms and numbness
  • There is no effective treatment for the disorder

Arachnoiditis is a disorder which involves pain caused by the inflammation of the arachnoid, one of the membranes that surrounds and protects the nerves of the spinal cord. Problems such as a direct injury to the spine, an irritation from chemicals, infection from bacteria or viruses, chronic compression of spinal nerves, complications from spinal surgery or other invasive spinal procedures can cause the arachnoid membrane to become inflamed.


Inflammation may lead to the formation of scar tissue and adhesions, which cause the spinal nerves to stick together. Arachnoiditis can have several symptoms affecting the muscles as well the bladder, bowel, and sexual function. In severe cases, arachnoiditis may cause paralysis of the lower limbs.

Diagnosing arachnoiditis can be difficult; however tests such as the CAT scan or MRI can help detect the dirorder. An electromyogram test can also be very effective in understanding the severity of the ongoing damage to affected nerve roots by using electrical impulses to check nerve function.

Arachnoiditis is difficult to treat, so can be it prognosis which may turn out to be very unpredictable. Almost all the treatments for arachnoiditis are primarily focused on pain relief and the improvement of symptoms that impair daily function.  A course of pain management, physiotheraphy, exercise, and psychotheraphy is recommended along with the treatment.  However, a surgical intervention is generally provides only short-term relief.

Symptoms of Arachnoiditis

Arachnoiditis may have several symptoms however none is consistent. In most of the cases it affects the nerves connecting to the lower back and legs. The most common and significant symptom of the disorder is mild to severe pain. Many people with arachnoiditis are unable to work and suffer significant disability because they are in constant pain.

Other symptoms of the disorder may include:

  • Spasms, muscle cramps, and uncontrollable twitching.
  • Severe shooting pain that can be similar to an electric shock sensation.
  • Tingling, weakness, or numbness in the legs.
  • A sensation of insects crawling on the skin.
  • Problem with the bladder, bowel and sexual functions.

Arachnoiditis, therefore is a disorder that causes chronic pain and neurological defects and has no effective treatment.  Even surgery may only provide temporary relief.  The outlook for someone with arachnoiditis is complicated by the fact that the disorder has no predictable pattern or severity of symptoms.

Image Courtesy : Getty

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