NASS – North American Spine Society. A multidisciplinary organization for spine care professionals and researchers that advances quality spine care through education, research and advocacy.
National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) – National database of treatment guidelines available to the public and health care providers.
Neoplasm – Tumor.
Nerve – A whitish cord-like structure composed of one or more bundles of myelinated or non-myelinated fibers.
Nerve Root Block – Injection of Corticosteroids (anti-inflammatories) and a local anesthetic onto the nerve root sleeve surrounding a nerve root.
Nerve Root – The bony arch of the posterior aspect of a vertebra that surrounds the spinal cord, also referred to as the vertebral arch.
Neural Arch – Bony arch that surrounds the spinal cord.
Neuralgia – Pain extending down one or more nerves.
Neurectomy – Excision of part of a nerve.
Neuritis – Inflammation of a nerve.
Neuro Surgery – A surgical speciality that is involved with the treatment of brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerve disorders.
Neurolysis – Excision of scar tissue from a nerve or nerve root.
Neuroma – A tumor largely made up of nerve fibers.
Neuromuscular Scoliosis – Scoliosis is caused from a muscle disorder.
Neuropathic Pain – Caused by damage to the nerve tissue that is felt as burning or stabbing.
Neuropathy – A functional disturbance to the peripheral nervous system.
Neurostimulation – Surgical placement of a wired device that is designed to block pain signals to the brain. When strategically placed either at the sight of the affected nerve or near the spinal cord the pain is transformed to a tingling sensation.
Neurosurgery – The surgical treatment of disorders of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves.
NIH – National Institutes of Health. One of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Services Agencies. The NIH is the federal base for medical research in the U.S.
Non–Union – Failure of the fragments of a fractured bone to heal or to obtain bony fusion following an arthrodesis.
NP – Nurse Practitioner. Registered nurse with additional education and training.
NSAIDs – Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs. Medications also used to reduce swelling and inflammation. Examples of NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and a variety of prescription drugs. There are different classes of NSAID medications, including COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors.
Nucleus Pulposus – The gelatinous tissue in the center of an intervertebral disc.
Occiput – The base of the skull.
Olisthy – Slipping of bone or bones from the normal anatomical position.
Opioids – Drugs that treat pain by affecting pain perception without treating the underlying cause. These medications affect pain perception only and do not treat the pathologic condition.
Orthopaedics (also Orthopedics) – The medical specialty involved in the preservation and restoration of function of the musculoskeletal system that includes treatment of spinal disorders and peripheral nerve lesions.
Orthosis – Brace.
Ossification – The process of forming bone in the body.
Osteoinductive – A material with the ability to induce bony growth.
Osteomyelitis – Inflammation of the bone due to an infective process.
Osteophyte – A bony overgrowth.
Osteoporosis – A disorder in which the bone loses its density and becomes “soft”.
PA – Physician’s assistant.
Pain – An unpleasant sensation associated with actual or potential tissue damage. It is felt as pain due to nerve fibers that travel from the sight of dysfunction to the brain.
Paraplegia – Paralysis of the lower extremities.
ParaVertebral Muscle Spasm – Spasm of the muscles at either side of the spinous process that can cause intense pain.
Pars Interarticulars – The superior and inferior facets are joined to each other’s by the “pars”.
Pathology – The study of disease.
PDR – Physicians’ Desk Reference. Guide to drugs available in U.S.
Pedicle – The strongest part of the neural arch that joins the lamina to the vertebral body.
Pelvic Obliquity – Deviation of the pelvis from the horizontal in the frontal plane. Fixed pelvic obliquities can be attributed to contractures either above or below the pelvis.
Percutaneous Lumbar Discectomy (PLD) – The removal of bulging disc material percutaneously through a large-bore needle inserted into the disc space. The disc material is removed using laser, cutting, sucking or laser appliances. Also known as Percutaneous Microdiscectomy.
Percutaneous Nucleotomy – The removal of disc material through a large-bore needle.
Percutaneous – Passage through skin by needle or other object.
Periosteum – A fibrous membrane that covers the surface of bone except at the end of the bones where it is covered with cartilage as part of a joint. In children, periosteum is involved in forming new bone and molding the configuration of bone; and in the adult, the periosteum forms new bone secondary to injury or infection.
Physical Therapy – The treatment consists of passive modalities administered to the patient by the practitioner (e.g., massage, heat, cold, ultrasound) and active therapies (e.g., stretching, exercise). Physical therapy can help a patient gain strength, endurance, range of motion, re-learn movements and/or rehabilitate the Musculoskeletal System to improve function.
Physiology – The science of the functioning of living organisms, and of their component systems or parts.
Physiotherapy – Exercising specific parts of the body to re-learning movement, regain range of movement or rehabilitate part of the body.
Piriformis Syndrome – Is a diagnosis based on pain in the buttock leading down the back of the thigh otherwise known as Sciatica.
Platysma – Is the thin outermost muscle in the anterior neck.
Plexus – A network of inter joining nerves, blood vessels or lymphatic vessels.
PMMA – Polymethyl Methacrylate. A material used in bone cement for Orthopedic and Spine surgery.
Posterior – Towards the back of the body or the back of a structure with in the body.
Posterior Fusion – Is used to describe a fusion in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar regions that has been approached from the back.
Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF) – Spinal fusion technique in which the disc is removed through the back of the spinal canal and a bone graft is inserted in the invertebral space also through the back.
Posterior – Located behind a structure, such as relating to the back side of the human body.
Posterior – Rear. Being on back side. In rear position.
PRN – As necessary.
Prosthesis – An artificial body part such as an artificial leg or arm. The term prosthesis is also used to describe some of the implants used in the body such as a hip or knee replacement device.
Proximal – Nearest the center of the body.
Pseudoarthrosis (also Pseudarthrosis, failed fusion) – A form of non-union where the fusion has formed a false joint.
PT – Physical Therapist.
PVA – Percutaneous Vertebral Augmentation. A procedure that helps restabilize collapsed vertebral bodies by injection of material into the collapsed area. Includes Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty.
Quadriplegia – Paralysis of all four limbs.
Rachialgia – Pain in the vertebral column.
Rachicentisis – Lumbar puncture for the examination of the spinal fluid.
Rachiocampsis – Curvature of the spine.
Rachiopathy – Any disease of the spine.
Rachioscoliosis – Lateral curvature of the spine.
Radiculopathy – Impairment of a nerve root, usually causing radiating pain, numbness, tingling or muscle weakness that corresponds to a specific nerve root.
Radiologist – Is a medical doctor with specialized training in the interperation of X-rays, MRI and CTs.
RCT – Randomized clinical trial.
Recombinant Human Protein – Proteins developed by isolating a human protein and using recombinant DNA technology to genetically engineer proteins that act like natural proteins.
Referred Pain – Is pain that is felt far from its origin; for example, leg pain that originates from the lower back or shoulder tip pain from gas that is trapped under the Diaphragm.
Reflex – An involuntary reaction in response to stimuli.
Resection – The surgical removal of part of a structure, such as bone.
Resorption – The removal of bone tissue by normal physiological process or as part of a pathological process such as an infection. Bone resorption is also a part of the normal bone remodeling process wherein new bone is formed.
Retrolisthesis – Posterior displacement of vertebrae one on top of the other.
Rhizolysis – Freeing of the vertebral nerve root.
Rhizotomy – Surgical transection of a nerve root.
Rib Hump – The prominence of the ribs on the convexity of a spinal curvature, usually due to vertebral rotation best exhibited on forward bending.
RN – Registered Nurse.
Rod – In spinal applications, a slender, metal implant which is used to immobilize and align the spine.
ROM – Range of motion.
Rotation – The movement of 1 vertebra to another about its normal or abnormal coronal axis.
Ruptured Disc – See Herniated Disc.
Rx – Treatment.
Sacral – The sacrum is the lowest 5 fused vertebral segments of the spinal column.
Sacrum – Part of the tailbone just above the coccyx and below the lumbar spine.
Sagittal – Refers to a lengthwise cut that divides the body into right and left portions.
Sciatica – Is a lay term that describes pain that travels from the buttock down the posterior thigh following the sciatic nerve.
Scoliosis – Abnormal curve of the spine.
Sepsis – A state of infection of tissue due to disease–producing bacteria or toxins.
SI – Sacroiliac. The joints (one on each side) between the sacrum at the midline and the iliac wings, which form part of the Pelvic Ring. Often a site of referred pain, and may be a source of pain.
Skeleton – The rigid framework of bones that gives form to the body, protects and supports the soft organs and tissues, and provides attachments for muscles.
SPECT Scan – Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography. A diagnostic imaging test.
Spina Bifida Occulta – A congenital defect of the spinal column where the lamina fail to come together completely at the midline. In this form, there are no exposed neural elements, therefore, this is usually an incidental finding without any clinical findings associated.
Spina Bifida – Congenital defect of the spinal column, where a hole in the vertebra leaves the spinal cord and nerves exposed. This condition is usually identified at birth and may be treated early in life.
Spinal Canal – The bony channel that is formed by the intravertebral foramen of the vertebrae and in which contains the spinal cord and nerve roots.
Spinal Column – See Spine.
Spinal Cord – Longitudinal cord of nerves that ends at the level of L1.
Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) – Electrical device implanted in the spine to control chronic pain.
Spinal Disc – See Disc (InterVertebral).
Spinal Fusion – A surgical method for stabilizing and strengthening the spinal column.
Spinal Stenosis (SS) – Local, segmental or generalized narrowing of the central spinal canal by bone or soft tissue elements.
Spinal Stenosis – Compression of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots resulting in inflammation, pain and neurological symptoms. Causes of compression include degenerative disc disease and spondylosis.
Spine – The flexible bone column extending from the base of the skull to the tailbone. It is made up of 33 bones, known as vertebrae. The first 24 vertebrae are separated by discs known as intervertebral discs, and bound together by ligaments and muscles. Five vertebrae are fused together to form the sacrum and 4 vertebrae are fused together to form the coccyx. The spine is also referred to as the vertebral column, spinal column, or backbone.
Spinous Process – Is the part of the neural arch that protrudes posteriorly and can be felt under the skin.
Spondylarthritis – Arthritis of the spine.
Spondylitis – Inflammation of the vertebrae.
Spondylolisthesis – A defect in the construct of bone between the superior and inferior facets with varying degrees of displacement so the vertebra with the defect and the spine above that vertebra are displaced forward in relationship to the vertebrae below. It is usually due to a developmental defect or the result of a pars fracture.
Spondylolisthesis, Degenerative – When a vertebra slips forward over the vertebra below it as a result of arthritis of the small joints of the spine and degeneration of the discs.
Spondylolisthesis, Isthmic – When a vertebra with a crack in the ‘pars interarticularis’ where the vertebral body and the posterior elements protecting the nerves are joined, slips forward over the vertebra below it. Spondylolisthesis can be graded as I, II, III or IV based on how far forward the vertebra has slipped.
Spondylolysis – Displacement of one vertebra over another with fracture of a posterior portion of the vertebra. A defect in the neural arch between the superior and inferior facets of vertebrae without separation at the defect and therefore no displacement of the vertebrae. It may be unilateral or bilateral and is usually due to a developmental defect but may be secondary to a fracture.
Spondylopathy – Any vertebral disorder.
Spondylosis – Degenerative bony replacement of ligament around the disc space. This can lead to a decrease in mobility and eventual fusion.
Stainless Steel – Iron–based metal containing chromium that is highly resistant to stain, rust, and corrosion. Certain grades of stainless steel are commonly used to make surgical implants and instruments.
Stenosis – Reduction in the diameter of the spinal canal or lateral foramen, causing pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.
Sterile – Free from living organisms.
Sterilization – The method used to render a material free from living organisms. Usual methods include steam under pressure, gas, and ionizing radiation.
Superior – Situated above or directed upward toward the head of an individual.
Sx – Symptoms.
T# – The letter T followed by a number identifies a specific vertebra in the thoracic spine. For example, T3 is the 3rd vertebra in the thoracic spine.
Tendon – The fibrous band of tissue that connects muscle to bone. It is mainly composed of collagen.
TENS – Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. A form of electrical anesthesia used to block pain perception.
Tension – An act of stretching or pulling tight.
Thoracic – The chest level region of the spine that is located between the cervical and lumbar vertebrae. It consists of 12 vertebrae which serve as attachment points for ribs.
Thrombus – A blood clot that is attached to the wall of an artery.
Tissue – A collection of similar type of cells that make up a structure.
Titanium – A metallic element that is used in surgical implants.
Toxicology – The study of the toxic or harmful effects of substances on the body.
Traction – An intermittent or continuous pulling force on the spinal column to elongate the spine.
Transitional Vertebrae – A vertebrae that has elements of two types of vertebrae. For example the fifth lumbar vertebrae which has partial sacral components.
Translation – Vertebral body displacement – can describe lateral, anterior or posterior displacement.
Transplant – The implantation of bone tissue, as in grafting, from one part of the body to another, or from one individual to another. Transplant also refers to the transfer of an organ such as a kidney or heart from one individual to another.
Transverse Process – A bony process that extends out from the mid portion of the neural arch, giving rise to the arms of the cross.
Transverse – Refers to a cut that divides the body horizontally (superior and inferior portions).
Trigger Point Injections – Injection of local anesthetic with or without corticosteroid into painful soft tissues (i.e., muscles or ligaments) along the spine or over the back of the pelvis. Generally used for pain control.
Tx – Treatment.
Ultra Sound – The use of high frequency sound waves to create visuals of the internal body structures.
UncoVertebral – Pertaining to the uncinate processes of the vertebrae.
Uni – One side as in unilateral.
Union – The coming together of tissue separated by injury or the knitting together of bone in a fusion.
Unremitting Low Back Pain – Another term for chronic low back pain. A condition in which the chief complaint is back pain of primarily a mechanical nature, associated with activities, but without associated spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis. To be classified as unremitting low back pain, symptoms must persist for more than three months and have been unresponsive to primary care treatment recommendations.
Ureter – 16- to 18-inch tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder.
Vagus Nerve – Is the 10th cranial nerve responsible for both sensory and motor function. Situated in the neck along side the carotid artery.
Vascular – Related to or containing blood vessels.
Vasoconstriction – A decrease in the diameter of blood vessels.
Vasodilation – An increase in the diameter of the blood vessels.
Vasospasm – Spasm of the blood vessel causing Vasoconstriction.
Vertebra – One of the 33 bones of the spinal column. A cervical, thoracic, or lumbar vertebra has a cylindrically–shaped body anteriorly and a neural arch posteriorly (composed primarily of the laminae and pedicles as well as the other structures in the posterior aspect of the vertebra) that protects the spinal cord. The plural of vertebra is vertebrae.
Vertebrae – Bones that make up the spine. (vertebra: singular form of vertebrae)
Vertebral End Plates – The superior and inferior plates of cortical bone of the vertebral body adjacent to the intervertebral disc.
Vertebroplasty – Procedure to repair fractures related to osteoporosis, where glue-like cement material is injected into a collapsed vertebra.
Whiplash – Commonly referred to as ‘Neck Sprain or Strain’ although symptoms may have other causes. Describes the hyperextension and hyperflexion of the neck. Common in car accidents.
Wire – A metal thread available in various diameters to aid in fixation of Fractures and Fusion Surgery.
Xenograft – A graft derived from one species for the use in another species.
X-Ray – Ionizing Electromagnetic Radiation emitted from an evacuated tube towards a target anode. This produces clear images of bone inside the body.
Xylocaine – A type of local anaesthetic also known as Lidocaine.
Z Plasty – The repair of a skin defect using two triangular flaps.
Z-Joint – Zygapophysial Joint. See also Facet Joints.
Zygapophysial Joint Injections – Injections of steroids and local anesthetic into the facet joints to determine if it is a source of pain or to reduce pain and inflammation.