Ankylosing spondylitis

A form of arthritis that causes inflammation of the spinal joints (vertebrae) that can lead to severe, chronic pain and discomfort.

Annulus

The fibrous outer wall of the vertebral disc that encases a soft gel-like center.

Anti-Inflammatory

A drug that reduces swelling and inflammation.

Arthritis

A common joint disease causing inflammation and pain.

Bone scan

A test where a small amount of radioactive material is injected into the blood stream. This material collects in the bones and a scanner is used to detect the "hot spots" (the areas with more radioactive material) to help your doctor determine the location of the problem.

Bulging disc

Occurs when the annulus of a vertebral disc protrudes with the nucleus pulposus intact. Also known as a Contained Disc. See our treatment page for bulging disc treatment options.

Cannula

Small metal tubes through which surgical instruments are passed during percutaneous procedures.

Cervical spine

The first seven vertebrae starting at the base of the skull.

Coccyx

The last bone formation below the sacrum; also known as the tailbone.

Compressive neuropathy

Pressure on nerves that may cause swelling and pain.

Computed tomography (CT scan)

An imaging tool that combines a series of x-ray views taken from many different angles to produce cross-sectional images of the bones and soft tissues.

Congenital

Present at birth.

Contained disc

See bulging disc.

Degenerative disc disease

A biochemical change associated with aging that may cause discs to lose moisture, crack, and/or become thin.

Dilate

To enlarge or expand.

Disc

A cushion-like shock absorber located between two vertebrae.

Disc extrusion

The inner material of an intervertebral disc, nucleus pulposus, leaks into the spinal canal.

Discectomy

Surgical removal of a portion of or an entire intervertebral disc.

Discography

A specific kind of x-ray that uses dye to reveal the pathology of the discs.

Electromyelogram

A test used to determine normal (or abnormal) muscle function.

Epidural fibrosis

The formation of scar tissue near the nerve root.

Fluoroscopy

An imaging tool allowing a surgical procedure to be seen as it is performed.

General anesthesia

Drugs used by an anesthesiologist during surgery that temporarily disable nerve impulses making the patient unconscious and pain free.

Herniated disc

Occurs when the disc ruptures and a portion of the nucleus of the disc pushes outside its normal boundary. Also known as a Non-Contained Disc. For more information on herniated disc treatment see our treatment page.

Inflammation

Swelling.

Intervertebral discs

See Disc.

Ligaments

A short band of tough, flexible, fibrous tissue that connects two bones or cartilages or holds together a joint.

Local anesthesia

An injection at or near the procedure site to block the pain impulses to the brain.

Lumbar spine

The five vertebrae that start after the last thoracic vertebrae.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A diagnostic imaging tool that produces detailed images without radiation.

Microdiscectomy

Surgical removal of a portion of or an entire vertebral disc using microscopic magnification.

Muscle spasm

Involuntary muscle movement due to trauma.

Myelogram

A test where dye is injected into the spinal fluid before x-rays are taken to show pressure on spinal cord or nerves.

Nerve compression

See Compressive Neuropathy.

Neuroforamen

Window-like openings that allow nerves to exit the spine.

Non-contained disc

See Herniated Disc.

Nucleus pulposus

The gel-like center of a vertebral disc.

Osteoarthritis

A degenerative form of arthritis.

Osteoporosis

A disease that causes bones to lose density.

Outpatient surgery

Same day surgery.

Percutaneous surgery

A surgical procedure performed through a small hole made in the patient's skin.

Radiculopathy

Pain caused by nerve irritation due to damage to the discs between the vertebrae.

Rheumatoid arthritis

An autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints.

Ruptured disc

Also known as a Herniated Disc.

Sacrum

Triangular-shaped bone mass located below the last lumbar vertebra.

Sciatica

A compressive neuropathy involving the sciatic nerve.

Scoliosis

A disease that may cause the spine to curve to the side, usually into the shape of an "S" or a "C."

Sequestered Disc Herniation

A free fragment of the nucleus pulposus in the spinal canal outside of the anulus fibrosus and no longer attached to the intervertebral disc.

Slipped disc

Also known as a Herniated or Bulging Disc.

Soft tissue injury

Injury to non-bony portions of the spine.

Spinal column

A bony structure that protects the spinal cord and nerves, supports the body's weight, and permits upright posture. It is made up primarily of vertebrae, discs, and the spinal cord.

Spinal cord

The major bundle of nerves that carry nerve impulses to and from the brain to the rest of the body. The spinal cord runs down through the middle of the spinal column, where it is safely protected.

Spinal instability

Occurs when the ligaments, muscles, and discs are unable to maintain intersegmental control in reaction to physiological loads or stresses.

Spinal stenosis

A narrowing or closing of the neuroforamen (windows) that may cause nerve compression and pain.

Spondylolisthesis

A disorder that results when one vertebra slips over another.

Sprain/Strain

Occurs when a muscle, ligament, or tendon is stretched beyond its normal limits.

Structural injuries

Injuries that affect the bones and discs and can cause chronic back and leg pain.

Tendon

A sturdy band of tissue that attaches muscle to bone.

Thoracic spine

The 12 vertebrae following the last cervical vertebra.

Vertebrae

One (or more) of the 33 bones in the spinal column.

X-ray

A diagnostic tool using radiation to create an image of a body part.

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