General Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Acquired condition A disorder that a person develops over time that is not genetic, but may occur from the influence of the environment or unknown internal processes.
Acupuncture A 4000-year-old medical technique from the Far East which involves inserting needles into selected sites in the body to promote healing without the use of medication or surgery.
Anesthetic A pain killing agent applied topically (over skin), locally (injected directly around a nerve supplying a painful area in nerve root blocks), or regionally (as part of a surgical procedure).
Annulus fibrosus Outer fibrous layers of the intervertebral disc consisting of overlapping collagen fibers. Also called .annulusê.
Anterior longitudinal ligament A strong ligament running along the front of the spine that binds the vertebrae and vertebral disks together into a columnar unit.
Arthrodesis Fusion of diseased or damaged vertebrae with bone graft to strengthen and stabilize the spine.
Arthroscopic discectomy Removal of an intervertebral disc by arthroscopy.
Arthroscopy A procedure using several small incisions for insertion of a visualization scope and instruments in the diagnosis and treatment of a joint condition.
Articular process A bony projection, part of which has a small smooth surface known as a facet. In the spine there are 4 articular processes off the back of each vertebrae, two upper and two lower that comprise the facet joints.
Atlas First cervical vertebra of the spinal column, located just beneath the skull. Supports the head.
Axis Second cervical vertebra of the spinal column, located below the atlas vertebra. Allows rotation of the neck. Has a bony protrusion called the dens, or odontoid process, which projects upward and within the atlas.
Biofeedback Mind-body technique using knowledge of heart rate, blood pressure, or skin temperature to control symptoms such as pain or anxiety.
Body asymmetry A state when opposite sides of the body do not correspond in appearance and/or function.
Bridging osteophytes New vertical bone that forms between vertebral bodies, associated with degenerative disease.
Calcification The growth of calcium within a tissue or structure, altering its natural structure or nature.
Cauda equina syndrome Compression on the lower aspect of the spinal cord (caudal sac), usually by a large herniated disc, that affects nerves on both sides of the cord.¾ Signs: low back pain, weakness and/or tingling in both legs, and bowel and bladder incontinence.¾ Requires immediate surgical decompression for recovery.
Cervical Refers to the neck or cervical curve of the spine; the top most curve that includes the neck area.
Cervical vertebrae The upper 7 vertebral bones of the spinal column that form the neck, and provide and support rotation for the head and neck.
Charleston bending brace A treatment brace that over-corrects the bend of the scoliotic curve and does not allow for upright standing. It is used only at night-time.
Chronic low back pain Pain in the lower back that lasts beyond the course of an acute disease or an injury, or pain that persists for months or years.
Claudication Symptoms of leg pain or weakness and limping that are present when walking but absent at rest.
Cobb angle The measure of the magnitude of a scoliotic curve.¾ The angle is formed by the intersection of two perpendicular lines, each of which is parallel to the top and bottom vertebra of the scoliotic curve, respectively.
Cobb method A technique to measure the degree of curvature (Cobb angle) of a scoliotic curve on an X-ray
Coccyx The lowest 4 bones of the spinal column that are fused in the shape of a triangle.
Compression fractures A fracture of the inner aspect of bone caused by the impact of a heavy load.
Congenital condition A disorder present at birth which may or may not be genetic, or inherited.
Congenital scoliosis Scoliosis caused by abnormal vertebral development from birth, such as failure of normal vertebral formation or segmentation.
Congenital spinal abnormalities A condition of the spine since birth, for example, an excessively narrowed spinal canal.
Contained disc herniation Outer annular fibers are intact, although stretched over the protruding disc material.
Contrast agent A liquid given orally or intravenously for imaging tests that improves the contrast and therefore¾ the visibility of structures.
Contrast enhanced MRI MRI used with a nontoxic dye injected into an arm vein through a small needle to differentiate between tissue structures more accurately. More commonly applied in patients with recalcitrant pain who have had previous spinal surgery.
Degenerative disc disease Condition where the spinal disc loses structural integrity from wear and tear, aging, or trauma. Consequences may be: disc space narrowing, osteophyte formation, disc bulging, or herniation.
Degenerative spondylolisthesis Forward displacement of a vertebra from the vertebra below due to degenerative changes in the facet joints.¾ A Frequent cause of low back and leg pain.
Dens An element of the -axis" vertebra which projects upward, articulating with the -atlas" vertebra. Also called the odontoid process
Disc bulge General pushing out of a spinal disc, extending the disc from its normal position. Considered a normal occurrence with age.
Disc herniation Focal abnormality of a disc associated with disc disease.¾ Involves the breakdown of the outer disc structure with the inner s partially or completely pushing through the outer fibrous layers and subsequent encroachment of the epidural space, spinal cord, and nerves.
Dura mater The outermost and toughest membrane surrounding the brain and continuing as part of the sac surrounding the spinal cord.¾ Also called the dura.
Electromyography Diagnostic test for conditions involving the nerves and muscles of the spine and neuromuscular function.
Epidural injections Technique whereby a liquid mechanism (steroid, anesthetic) is injected clinically into the epidural space surrounding the spinal cord and spinal nerves.
Epidural space Space between the spinal cord and the walls of the vertebral canal, on or over the dura.
Epidural steroid injections Technique whereby a liquid (steroid, anesthetic) is injected clinically into the epidural space surrounding the spinal cord and spinal nerves
Erector spinae muscles The most important extensor muscle group of the back. Responsible for returning the back to an erect position following motion. The erector spinae muscles secondarily contribute to lateral bending, rotation of the spine, and movement of the head. Another name for this muscle group is the sacrospinal muscle group.
External oblique abdominal muscles One of the powerful rotator muscles of the spine whose fibers run obliquely to the long axis of the body. Contribute to spinal movement by compressing the stomach organs and flexing the spine.
Extruded disc herniations Condition where the nucleus material of a disc has passed through a defect of an adjacent ligament (the posterior longitudinal ligament) but remains in continuity with the disc.
Facet arthritis Degeneration of facet joint cartilage and hypertrophy of the bone forming the joint.
Facet arthrosis Chronic degeneration of the facet joint cartilage and enlargement of the bony aspects (articular processes) of the joint
Facet joint capsule Collagen membrane that encloses the facet joint
Facet joints Joints of the spine that connect all of the vertebrae and allow coordinated movement of the vertebral column.
Facet syndrome A condition where pain emanates from the facet joints. Pain is typically brought on suddenly by certain body positions and relieved by others.
Facetectomy Excision or removal of the facet joints of the vertebrae.
Fibrocartilage tissue A dense strong cartilage found in intervertebral discs, the knee joint, and at the attachments of tendons and ligaments to bone.
Fluoroscopy A radiology technique that allows still or moving images of internal structures on a monitor or TV screen; alternative to conventional X-ray.
Gait The activity of walking, stepping, or running. The smoothness or abnormalities of a personês gait can provide information for diagnosis of spinal disorders.
Halo cast A metal frame apparatus for immobilizing the neck or cervical spine. Applied under local or general anesthesia.
Herniated disc A condition where the center (nucleus pulposus) of the intervertebral disc is protruding through the outer fibrous layer (annulus fibrosus) of the disc. A frequent cause of low back and leg pain.¾ Distinguish from a disc bulge.
Herniation Protrusion of part of a disc through its outer layers or the whole disc through a defect or natural opening of muscle or bone.
Hyperreflexia A condition of very strong reflexes, often occurring in patients with cervical myelopathy.
Hypertrophy Enlargement or overgrowth of a tissue, organ, or structure in the body.
Hypertrophic arthritis A condition occurring with osteoarthritis where reactive new bone formation occurs around joints and the joint bones become larger.
Idiopathic scoliosis Scoliosis, or lateral curvature of the spine, the cause of which cannot be determined.
Iliocostalis muscle A division of the erector spinae muscle group which help to extend the spine (bend backwards).
Implants Metal devices, also called instrumentation, that are used in spinal surgery for fusion of vertebrae and to increase stability of the spine.
Internal oblique abdominal muscles One of the rotator muscles of the spine whose fibers run obliquely to the long axis of the body. Contribute to spinal movement by compressing the stomach organs and flexing the spine.
Intertransverse ligaments Ligaments which travel between the tips of the transverse processes on vertebrae, contribute to spinal stability.
Intervertebral disc joint The articulation between two vertebrae provided by a fibrocartilage disc; joint of the vertebral column.
Intravenously A technique whereby fluids are introduced to the body through a tube placed within a vein.
Isthmic spondylolisthesis Forward displacement of a vertebra due to bony defects between the upper and lower facet joints of a single vertebrae (posterior arch).¾ Frequent cause of low back and leg pain.
Laminae Flat pieces of the vertebral arch extending from the vertebral pedicles that form the back wall of the spinal canal.
Laminectomy Removal of the lamina of one or more vertebrae to inspect the spinal cord or to provide decompression of the cord.
Laminoplasty Operation to create a more spacious spinal canal by elevating the laminae over the back of the spinal cord.
Latissimus dorsi muscle Muscles that participate in bending forward (flexion), shoulder or head movements, or arm movement.¾
Lidocaine Anesthetic, sometimes given in conjunction with a facet block diagnostic test.
Ligamenta flava Bands of elastic ligament that connect the laminae and fuse with the facet joint capsules.
Limited lumbar laminotomy A surgically created opening in one or more laminae.
Longissimus muscles A division of the erector spinae muscles which helps to extend the spine (bend backwards) and flex it to one side.
Lumbar Refers to the lower back and that area of the spinal column called the .lumbar curveê. Consists of 5 vertebrae.
Lumbar arachnoiditis Inflammation of the arachnoid lining of the spinal cord that can lead to scarring and compression of the nerve roots.
Lumbar puncture Procedure whereby a needle is placed within the spinal canal to take samples of cerebrospinal fluid for diagnosis or to deliver medication, contrast agents, or anesthesia.
Lumbar spinal stenosis A narrowing of the spinal canal due to degenerative changes in the lumbar spine.
Lumbar vertebrae Have facet joint positions that virtually prevent rotation in the lower back, but they allow for a large amount of forward and backward bending (flexion and extension).
Lumbosacral junction Lower back region where the lumbar and sacral vertebrae meet.
Marcaine Anesthetic sometimes given in conjunction with a facet block diagnostic test.
Microdiscectomy Surgical removal of a herniated disc fragment using microscopic techniques of magnification and illumination.
Milwaukee brace A brace used to treat scoliosis utilizing stabilization of the chin and base of the head.
Monoradiculopathy Disease or disorder involving a single nerve root on one side of the spine.
Motion segment A segmental model of spinal function consisting of two adjacent vertebrae, three joints (two posterior facet joints and the intervertebral disk joint), and the associated ligaments.
MRI (closed/open) Magnetic resonance imaging. A noninvasive imaging technology that uses magnets and radiofrequency waves to image the body. Closed: Patient is placed in long tube for MRI procedure. Can uncomfortable physically or stressful for children or patients with claustrophobia. Open: MRI is open on the sides and therefore more comfortable.
Multifidus muscle A back muscle whose fibers extend to each region of the spine, from sacral to cervical. Contributes to extension and lateral rotation of the spine.
Muscle strains A painful muscle condition, usually a result of muscle overuse from prolonged exercise or extremes of physical activity. Frequent cause of low back and leg pain.
Myelogram An X-ray study of the spinal canal and spinal cord.
Myelography Radiographic study of the spinal canal with the introduction of a dye substance into the spinal fluid to facilitate the image of the nerve tissues. Usually followed immediately by a CT scan.
Myelopathy Damage to the spinal cord from disease and/or compression.
Narrowing of the disc space A complication of degenerative disc disease where the height between vertebrae has become less than normal.
Nerve conduction studies Diagnostic test to measure the rate at which a nerve (sensory or motor) conducts an impulse.
Nerve foramina Small openings in the bony vertebrae that provide for the passage of spinal cord nerves to body tissues and organs.
Nerve root avulsion A tearing away or separation of the nerve root from its normal position as it exits the spinal cord.
Nerve root blocks A diagnostic procedure used to identify the nerve or nerves responsible for symptoms and a technique to block pain using an injection of anesthetic around the nerve supplying the painful area.
Nerve root impingement Pressure on a nearby nerve root and surrounding soft tissues by displaced structure or tissue, such as a herniated intervertebral disc or abnormal bone growth; or by entrapment against bone with movement.
Neural arch Posterior aspect of a vertebra formed by the laminae and pedicles and forming the posterior wall and side walls of the spinal canal
Noncontained disc herniation A condition where disc material has broken through the annulus fibrosus, or outer layers, thus creating the potential for greater nerve root impingement.
Noninvasive imaging technology Diagnostic imaging technology that does not impact tissues adversely or involve the use of instruments which enter the human body.
Nonspecific back pain Pain that may be due to a single type of soft tissue injury, such as a muscle strain, or to a combination of soft tissue injuries (muscle, ligament, and other connective tissues).
NSAID Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Aspirin-like medicines used to treat pain and inflammation.
Nucleus pulposus The soft and gelatinous center of an intervertebral disc which has a high water in younger persons.
Oscilloscope Diagnostic instrument that displays images of electrical impulses on a monitor (cathode-ray tube).
Osteoarthritis Noninflammatory degenerative joint disease occurring mainly in older persons.
Osteophytes A small abnormal outgrowth of bone in the region of the spinal joints or on the edge of vertebrae adjacent to the intervertebral spinal discs.
Pacemakers Therapeutic technology that controls the heart rhythm. Patients with pacemakers should not have MRI scans taken as the magnetic field could interfere with the pacemakerês function
Paralytic curves Scoliosis (lateral curvature of the spine) due to a neuromuscular condition such as cerebral palsy or a spinal cord injury with paraplegia.
Paraspinal muscles¾ Back muscles that attach to the spine and play a major role in posture and gait.¾ Their function is the extension of the spine in reaction to gravity and body weight (includes the multifidus and longissimus dorsi).
Paresthesias Abnormal burning or -pins and needles" sensation without any specific stimulation applied to skin.
Pars defect Bony defect in the back of the vertebrae sometimes responsible for pain, instability of the spine, and slippage (spondylolisthesis)
Pars interarticularis Is a narrow area (an isthmus) of bone between the upper and lower articular processes
Pedicles Short, thick bony structures which project backwards from each side of the vertebral body and are joined by the laminae to complete the back wall of the spinal canal.
Percutaneous discectomy Removal of disc material using minimally invasive tools, either through automated suction techniques or with arthroscopic visualization.
Laser discectomy Percutaneous discectomy using an automated laser.
Plain films An alternative name for X-rays.
Polyradiculopathy Radiating pain along the arm or leg due to dysfunction of a multiple spinal nerves, often due to a herniated discs or spinal stenosis.
Posterior longitudinal ligament (Weaker) bind the vertebrae and vertebral disks together into a columnar unit
Quadratus lumborum muscle Contributes mainly to lateral bending of the lumbar spine and is well situated for that purpose, spanning from the pelvis and lower lumbar area to the ribs and upper lumbar vertebrae ). Participate in flexion of the vertebral column, shoulder or head movements, or arm movement.¾
Radical discectomy (complete) Removal of the entire intervertebral disc, always accompanied by spinal fusion.
Radicular pain Pain experienced at the site of a nerve root or along the path for which a nerve supplies function.
Radiculopathy Radiating pain along the arm or leg due to dysfunction of a spinal nerve, often due to a herniated disc or spinal stenosis.
Radiopaque contrast medium A liquid given orally or intravenously for imaging tests that improves the contrast and therefore visibility of structures.
Range of motion The area through which a joint can be freely moved, actively or passively.
Rectus abdominis muscle A muscle that contributes to spinal movement by compressing the stomach organs and flexing the spine.
Reduction Returning the displaced vertebra to normal anatomic alignment.
Referred pain Pain experienced at a site that is distant from the origin of the pain or injury.
Regional anesthesia Anesthesia for a select region of the body produced by the injection of anesthesia around the sensory nerves supplying that area.
Sacrum Lowermost portion of the spinal column consisting of 3-5 fused bones, collectively in the shape of a triangle.
Salvage procedure A last resort surgical procedure.
Sciatica A condition defined as pain radiating down the leg, due to irritation of the sciatic nerve and commonly caused by a herniated disc or nerve compression from osteophytes.
Scoliosis A significant lateral deviation in the normal vertically straight line of the spine. Frequent cause of low back and leg pain.
Sequestered disc herniation A condition where a piece of herniated disc material has separated from the body of the disc itself and is not in direct continuity with it.
Somatosensory evoked potentials Diagnostic test for spinal cord injury involving the measurement of electrical signals generated by the stimulation of the peripheral nerves and recorded by electrodes placed on the skin over the cerebral cortex.¾ Also used during spine surgery to prevent neurologic injury.
Spinal canal The space that houses the spinal cord and spinal nerves throughout the length of the vertebral column. Provides openings for the exit of paired spinal nerves from the spinal cord.
Spinal cord That part of the central nervous system that connects all parts of the body with the brain and travels through the spinal canal of the vertebral column.
Spinal cord impingement Pressure placed on the spinal cord by a herniated intervertebral disc or abnormal bone growth from degenerative joint disease.
Spinal disc Soft tissue structure between the vertebrae, consisting of a soft inner material (nucleus pulposus) and a tough outer tissue (annulus fibrosus).¾ Allows articulation of the intervertebral joint.
Spinal fusion Surgically created connection of two adjacent vertebrae to immobilize one or more motion segments in an attempt to relieve pain, correct deformity, and improve stability.
Spinal motion segment A segmental model of spinal function consisting of two adjacent vertebrae, three joints (two posterior facet joints and the intervertebral disk joint), and the associated ligaments.
Spinal tap Procedure whereby a needle is placed within the spinal canal to take samples of cerebrospinal fluid for diagnosis or to deliver medication, contrast agents, or anesthesia.
Spinalis muscle Division of the erector spinae muscles contributing to extension of the spine (bending backwards).
Spinous processes Bony projections directly off the back of the spine that provide attachments for spinal ligaments and muscles; shape varies according to spinal region and function.¾ Progressively larger towards the lower spine to support the increased weight from above.
Splenius muscles Muscles which extend from the lower neck to the back of the skull and upper cervical vertebrae to extend, rotate, and laterally flex the neck.¾
Spondylolisthesis Forward displacement (slippage or translation) of one vertebra over the vertebra below.
Spondylolysis A defect (usually fracture) of the vertebral arch in between the superior and inferior facet joints (specifically, the pars interarticularis), occurring on one or both sides.
Spondyloptosis Over 100% forward slippage of a vertebra over the vertebra below.
Spondylosis Degenerative disease process affecting the spine, in particular, the intervertebral discs and the vertebral facet joints. Frequent cause of low back and leg pain.
Spondylosis¾ Degenerative disease process affecting the spine, in particular, the intervertebral discs and the facet joints. Frequent cause of low back and leg pain.
Stenosis A condition where the spinal canal is sufficiently reduced in size (diameter from a variety of causes (nerve root impingement, osteophyte formation, disc herniation, etc.). Frequent cause of low back and leg pain.
Suboccipital muscles Muscles that connect the atlas (1st cervical vertebra) to the axis (2nd cervical vertebra) and to the skull for rotation and extension of the head.¾
Supraspinous ligaments Ligaments that connect the tips of spinous processes and contribute to spinal stability and integrity by limiting the degree of spinal motion during movement.
Thoracic region Pertaining to the chest or the midback region of the spine, known as the thoracic curve and consisting of 12 vertebrae; in-between the cervical and lumbar regions of the spine.
Thoracic vertebrae Twelve vertebrae of the midback that allow significant rotation of the spine. The long spinous processes of these vertebrae (in addition to the rib cage) act to limit the degree of motion in the midback.
Tinnitus Ringing, buzzing, clicking in the ears caused by a variety of mechanisms, one of which can be spinal cord compression
TLSO Thoracolumbosacral orthotic. An underarm custom-molded rigid body-jacket type brace. The most common brace used in scoliosis.¾
Transverse processes Bilateral and broad flat lateral projections from each vertebral body that function as attachments for spinal ligaments and muscles.
Transversospinalis muscles Deep spinal muscles whose subgroups span nearby vertebrae to rotate the head, and also to extend and laterally rotate the spine.
Trapezius muscle Muscle of the upper shoulder that participates in flexion of the vertebral column, and draws the head back and to the side as well as braces the shoulder.
Trigger point injections Local injection of anesthesia into painful muscle tissue for symptomatic relief.
Vertebral arch A partial circle of bone that is connected to the back of the body; it is made up of the pedicles and laminae.
Vertebral body A thick columnar-shaped bone comprising the front of each vertebra.
Vertebral column Main central support of the body consisting of approximately 33 vertebrae, or separate bones connected by muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
Vertebral facet joints Joints of the spine that connect all of the vertebrae and allow coordinated movement of the vertebral column.
Whiplash A general term used to describe soft tissue injury of the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or discs associated with traumatic injury of the neck.