What is Central Cord Syndrome? This occurs when the damage is to the central part of the spinal cord.
Central cord syndrome is an "incomplete lesion," a condition in which only part of the spinal cord is affected. In central cord syndrome, there is greater weakness or outright paralysis of the upper extremities, as compared with the lower extremities. Unlike a complete lesion, that causes loss of all sensation and movement below the level of the injury, an incomplete lesion causes only a partial loss of sensation and movement.
Central cord syndrome specifically affects the central part of the spinal cord, also known as the "grey matter." The segment of spinal cord affected by central cord syndrome is the cervical segment, the part of the spinal cord that is encased within the first seven vertebrae, running from the base of the brain and into the neck. The central part of the cervical spinal cord is responsible for carrying information to and from the upper extremities and the brain, resulting in movement. Because the outer (peripheral) areas of the cervical spinal cord are spared, information going to and from the brain and the lower extremities is not as severely affected.
The specific degree of impairment depends on the severity of the injury. More mild impairment may result in problems with fine motor control of the hands, while more severe impairment may cause actual paralysis of the upper limbs. While the lower limbs are less severely affected in central cord syndrome, in more serious injuries the lower extremities may demonstrate some degree of weakness, loss of sensation, or discoordination. Loss of bladder control may be evident as well.
Central cord syndrome often strikes people who are already suffering from a degenerative spinal disease called spondylosis or spinal stenosis. In spondylosis, a progressive narrowing of the spinal canal puts increasing pressure on the spinal cord, resulting in damage and debilitation. Often, a fall or other injury that causes a person with spondylosis to extend his or her neck will cause the already-narrowed spinal canal to injure the spinal cord, resulting in central cord syndrome.