A debilitating condition where inflammation to the brain lining (arachnoid) causes nerve pain and neurological problems.

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What is arachnoiditis?

Arachnoiditis is the inflammation of the arachnoid lining — one of three linings to protect the brain and spinal cord. The condition causes intense burning pain and stinging sensations, coupled with neurological problems. It also causes the nerve roots and blood vessels to clump together, which becomes painful and debilitating.

Need to know

Arachnoiditis causes consistent pain in the lower back and legs. In severe cases, it causes debilitating pain throughout the whole body. If left untreated, the symptoms can get worse and can cause permanent disability.

Symptoms include:

  • tingling, numbness, or weakness in the legs
  • a crawling sensation on the skin
  • severe shooting pain
  • muscle cramps, spasms, and uncontrollable twitching
  • bladder, bowel and possible sexual dysfunction

The condition can sometimes be a rare complication of spinal surgery. Trauma to the spine can also be a factor, and viral infections such meningitis or tuberculosis can also be factors.

Arachnoiditis can be hard to diagnose - at first glance, the symptoms can seem similar to nerve compression. Neurological symptoms can also lead to the wrong diagnosis. If the consultant suspects someone has the condition, they will recommend a combination of CT scans and MRI scans. The consultant will look for nerve damage and check whether the nerve roots have clumped together.

There is no cure for arachnoiditis. Most treatments focus on relieving pain and improving symptoms to restore quality of life. Often, consultants will recommend physiotherapy and exercise.

As arachnoiditis can cause serious disability and chronic pain, people will be encouraged to join support groups and have counselling to relieve the mental stress of the condition. Surgical procedures are sometimes recommended. These include decompression surgery and foraminoplasty.

This treatment, carried out in the gaps between the vertebrae, allows the nerve to be released, relieving trapped nerves.

Our Arachnoiditis locations

Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH)

Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH)

170 Tottenham Court Road W1T 7HA London
The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
The Portland Hospital

The Portland Hospital

205-209 Great Portland Street W1W 5AH London
The Princess Grace Hospital

The Princess Grace Hospital

42-52 Nottingham Place W1U 5NY London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London
The Shard Outpatients

The Shard Outpatients

The Shard, 32 St Thomas Street SE1 9BS London

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.