Skip to main content
Avg ER Wait
Checking ER Wait Time
The feed could not be reached
Cartersville Medical Center

Tarlov Cyst


Tarlov cysts are abnormal sacs of spinal fluid that usually form at the lower end of the spine, which is called the sacrum. Tarlov cysts contain spinal nerve fibers within the cyst wall.

si55550398 105433 1 sacrum
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The cause of a Tarlov cyst is unknown but may be related to:

  • Trauma to the spine
  • Increase in cerebrospinal fluid pressure
  • Blockage of cerebrospinal fluid

Risk Factors

Although gender may not be a risk factor, Tarlov cysts have more often been found in women than men.

Tarlov cysts may be linked to connective tissue disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus and Marfan syndrome .


Most of the time, Tarlov cysts do not cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Nerve pain
  • Pain in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet, vagina, rectum, or abdomen
  • Pain when coughing or sneezing
  • Weakness, cramping, or numbness in the buttocks, legs, and feet
  • Swelling, soreness, or tenderness around the lower end of the spine
  • Abnormal sensations in the legs and feet, or less commonly in the arms and hands
  • Pain when sitting or standing
  • Headaches
  • Pulling and burning feeling in the tailbone
  • Loss of sensation on the skin
  • Loss of reflexes

If you have a Tarlov cyst, the following may cause it to become painful or cause other symptoms:


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Depending on your symptoms, you may need to see a specialist, such as a neurosurgeon.

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:


If you are experiencing symptoms, talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options may include:


To relieve inflammation and/or pain:

  • Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Topical pain relievers that are applied to the skin
  • Corticosteroid or other medicated injections

Other Treatments

Other treatments may include:

  • Aspiration of the cyst plus fibrin glue injection—a needle is used to drain the cyst and then a special glue is injected into the cyst to try to prevent it from filling again
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)—electrical impulses delivered through the skin
  • Surgery may be done for severe or worsening symptoms, bowel or bladder dysfunction, or if there is damage to the affected area


There are no current guidelines to prevent a Tarlov cyst.

Revision Information

  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

  • Tarlov Cyst Disease Foundation

  • Health Link BC

  • My Health Alberta

  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Tarlov cyst information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: Updated June 14, 2012. Accessed November 25, 2013.

  • Therapeutic percutaneous image-guided aspiration of spinal cysts. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence website. Available at: Updated 2007. Accessed November 25, 2013.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. Cartersville Medical Center does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.