NSW Spine Specialists

Spinal Glossary

NSW Spine Specialists

  • Achondroplastic stenosis
    Increase in vertebral thickening, a shortening of the pedicles

  • Acute

  • Adolescent scoliosis
    A lateral curvature of the spine that develops during adolescence

  • Adult scoliosis
    A lateral curve or scoliosis that develops after adolescence.

  • Afferent neuron
    An impulse transmitted to the central nervous system

  • Allograft
    A sterile bone graft used in spinal fusion derived from human sources. Bone taken from one individual and placed in another individual

  • Analgesia
    Loss of pain sensation

  • Anaesthesia
    Loss of consciousness due to the anaesthetic drugs, loss of sensation of total body part

  • Anaesthetist
    Physician who has specialised in anaesthetics and pain management

  • Anisospondyly
    Abnormal shaped vertebral bodies

  • Anterior
    The front

  • Anterior approach
    Used when approaching the spine from the front of the body

  • Anterior cervical discectomy
    An operation that is approached from the front of the neck that involves removing herniated disc material

  • Anterior cervical decompression fusion
    An operation on the upper spine to decompress nerve roots and fuse the unstable vertebral segments

  • Anterior displacement
    Forward movement of a vertebral segment

  • Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF)
    A lumbar spinal fusion that is approached from the front

  • Anterior lateral
    From the front and to the side

  • Anterior lateral approach
    An operative approach through rib resection on the side of the body

  • Anti-coagulant
    A medication that thins the blood to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis

  • Arachnoid
    Middle layer that covers the brain and spinal cord

  • Arthralgia
    Joint pain

  • Arthritis
    Inflammation of the joint with possible swelling, pain and stiffness

  • Arthrodesis
    The fusion of bones across a joint space. This may happen spontaneously or by means of surgical fusion

  • Arthroplasty
    The surgical remodelling of a diseased joint

  • Atlas
    The first cervical vertebra

  • Atrophy
    The wasting away of body tissue

  • Autogenous bone
    An individual’s own bone

  • Autologous
    A bone graft from and for the same individual

  • Axis
    The second cervical vertebrae on which the first vertebrae rotates giving the head movement

  • Back ache
    Any non specific pain in the back – usually in the lower part

  • Backbone
    Vertebral column or spine

  • Benign
    Not considered to be cancerous – does not generally spread to other parts of the body

  • Biocompatibility
    A characteristic of some materials that when implanted into a human, does not produce a significant immune response

  • Biopsy
    Where a small piece of tissues or bone is taken for testing

  • BMP
    Bone morphogenic protein

  • Bone
    A hard calciferous material that composes the structural skeleton, provides also a framework to which muscles, ligament and tendons attach

  • Bone derivative
    A substance extracted from bone

  • Bone graft substitute
    A material used instead of bone graft, for the purpose of increasing bone formation

  • Bone graft
    Bone that is taken from one area of the individual and placed in another area of the individual

  • Bone harvesting
    The removal of bone from one site in the body to another

  • Bone plate
    Usually made from metal or titanium, used in conjunction with bone screws for the fixation of bone

  • Bone screws
    Screws used to immobilise, for bone fixation or plate fixation

  • Bovine bone graft
    A bone graft from bovines or cows

  • Brace
    Used to aid in support or immobilisation of the back

  • Cancellous bone
    The honeycomb like structure of the middle region of long bones

  • Carotid artery
    A large vessel found on either side of the neck that branches into the external and internal carotid arteries. The carotid supplies the a large amount of blood to the brain

  • Cartilage
    The heard thin layer of tissue that covers the end of bones. It encourages movement by reducing friction at the joint

  • Cauda Equina
    A bundle of nerve roots begin at the finish of the spinal cord proper that supply the lower limbs

  • Centrum
    The body of the vertebrae

  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)
    A clear fluid that baths the brain and spinal cord and acts as a shock absorber

  • Cervical
    Related to the region of the neck

  • Cervical collar
    A supportive band worn round the neck following injury or surgery to the cervical region

  • Cervical plexus
    A number of nerves that supply the neck muscles

  • Cervical decompression
    Where the cervical nerve roots are freed or decompressed

  • Cervical fusion
    Where a determinate number of cervical vertebrae are fixated using bone screws, cages and bone plates

  • Coagulation
    Process of blood clotting

  • Cobalt-chrome
    Otherwise known as cobalt-chromium-molybdenum. This is a mixture of metals used in many surgical implants

  • Coccyx
    The coccyx is a fusion of the last 4 vertebrae of the spinal column into 1 small bony structure

  • Collagen
    A protein that contributes to the make up of living tissue such as skin, tendons, cartilage and bone

  • Compensatory curve
    A curve above or below a primary scoliosis curve. This type of curve helps the body to remain stable

  • Collagen
    A protein that contributes to the make up of living tissue such as skin, tendons, cartilage and bone

  • Compression
    To squeeze together or to make something smaller. An example is nerve root compression where the nerve roots are squashed and irritated causing pain

  • Computer Tomography (CT)
    A scanning process whereby a three dimensional image of soft tissue or bone is created

  • Congenital Scoliosis
    Scoliosis that is caused by genetic disposition to a vertebral alignment abnormality

  • Contrast Medium
    Usually a radiopaque fluid, used to define a structure during a radiologic examination or procedure

  • Cortical Bone
    The hard outer layer of the bone

  • Cytology
    The study of cells

  • Decompression
    An operation to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots

  • Degenerative disc disease
    Gradual or rapid loss of the structural and functional integrity of the intervertebral disease

  • Degenerative stenosis
    Gradual hypertrophy of bone or cartilage leading to a narrowing of vertebral margins, facet joints or vertebral canal

  • Demineralised bone
    Bone that has been depleted of minerals for example osteoporotic bone having lost calcium

  • Dermatome
    Refers to the distribution of sensory nerves near the skin that are responsible for pain, pins and needles or numbness. In relation to the spine the dermatome corresponds to the effected vertebral level

  • Discitis
    A non bacterial inflammation of an intervertebral disc

  • Discogram
    A radiographic representation of the intervertebral disc by injecting dye into the nucleus pulposus

  • Distal
    Situated away from the midline of the body

  • Dysaesthesia
    A condition in which an unpleasant sensation is produced by ordinary touch, temperature or movement

  • Dysplastic
    Congenital abnormality

  • Electroencephalopgrahy (EEG)
    The study of the electric activity in the brain

  • Endogenous
    Derived from one's own body

  • Epidural
    A space directly outside the dura mata. It is referred to as extra dural

  • Excision
    The removal of tissue

  • Exogenous
    Originating outside the body

  • Extrusion
    Displaced disc material that has herniated out to the spinal canal but remains connected to the central disc

  • Facet
    There is a superior and inferior facet for each vertebrae. They are flat surfaces that make up a joint when placed next to the vertebrae above and below

  • Facet arthropathy
    Degenerative changes to the facet joints

  • Facectomy
    Excision of an articular facet

  • Fibrosis
    The replacement of normal tissue with hardened scar tissue

  • Flattening of the normal lumbar curve
    Where the normal lumbar curve is abnormally shallow

  • Flexion
    To flex or bend forward

  • Food and drugs administration (FDA)
    An American agency that has regulatory authority over management and distribution of drugs, medical devices and food

  • Foramen
    A natural opening in the bone allowing for spinal nerve roots to pass from the spinal cord between the vertebrae

  • Foraminotomy
    A surgical opening or widening of the foramen

  • Fracture
    The disruption of the normal continuity of bone

  • Fracture
    The disruption of the normal continuity of bone

  • Functional scoliosis
    Also known as non-structural scoliosis, it has a temporary cause and does not involve spinal rotation.

  • Fusion
    Union or healing of bone. Also fixation or stabilisation of bone ie spinal fusion

  • Graft
    Unattached tissue or bone for transplantation.

  • Haemangioma
    A benign tumour consisting of a mass of blood cells

  • Haematoma
    A collection of blood forming a clot

  • Haematomyelia
    An effusion of blood (haematoma) into the spinal cord

  • Haematorrhachis
    Spinal apoplexy or haemorrhage into the vertebral canal

  • Hemi
    One sided

  • Hemi atrophy
    Wasting of half an organ or body

  • Hemi laminectomy
    The excision of only one side of the lamina relative to the spinous process

  • Hemiplegia
    Paralysis of one side of the body

  • Hemi laminectomy
    The excision of only one side of the lamina relative to the spinous process

  • Haemorrhage
    Bleeding due to the escape of blood from the blood vessels

  • Hereditary
    The passing on of traits to the offspring through genetic information

  • Herniation
    A protrusion

  • Herniation intervertebral disc (HID)
    Outpouching of disc material into the vertebral canal

  • Herniation of nucleus pulposus (HNP)
    Extrusion of the inner nucleus pulposus through a defect in the outer layer called the annulus fibrosis

  • Hydroxyapatite (HA)
    The lattice like structure of bone composed of calcium and phosphorous crystals which deposit on collagen to provide a rigid structure of bone. Also used in bone graft substitute

  • Hyoid bone
    Small bone lateral to the trachea, located at the level of the 3 rd cervical vertebrae

  • Hyper
    Above normal, excessive

  • Hyperaesthesia
    Excessive sensitivity to touch, or other stimuli.

  • Hyperextension
    Extension of a limb or back beyond it’s normal limits ( bending back)

  • Hyperflexion
    Fexion of a limb or the back beyond it’s normal limits (bending forward)

  • Hyperthermia
    Increase in body temperature beyond normal limits

  • Hyperlordosis
    Increase in the normal anterior curve of the cervical and lumbar spine

  • Hypothermia
    Decrease in body temperature beyond normal limits

  • Idiopathic
    Of unknown origin

  • Idiopathic scoliosis
    Abnormal lateral curvature of unknown origin

  • Iliac crest
    The large prominent part of the pelvic bone from which bone graft is often taken for fusion

  • Immobilisation of the back
    Limitation or fixation of the back or part there of, usually to promote healing

  • Infantile scoliosis
    Abnormal lateral curvature beginning before the age of 3 years

  • Instrumentation
    The use of instruments such as metal screws and rods during a surgical procedure

  • Interbody
    Between the vertebral bodies of 2 adjacent vertebrae

  • Interspinous ligament
    Ligaments between each of the spinous processes

  • Interspinous pseudarthrosis
    Formation of false joints between 2 spinous processes

  • Intervertebral disc narrowing
    The narrowing of space between 2 vertebral bodies

  • Invivo
    Within a living body

  • Inferior
    Situated below or directed downwards

  • Informed consent
    Documentation that states the patient has received sufficient information to have surgery, legal document

  • Ischaemia
    Inadequate circulation of blood to the brain

  • Isthmic spondylolisthesis
    A spinal condition caused by a defect of the pars interarticularis

  • Joint
    The junction of 2 or more bones that permits varying degrees of movement between the bones

  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
    Generalised inflammatory joint disease in children

  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
    Generalised inflammatory joint disease in children

  • Juvenile Scoliosis
    Begins between the ages of 3 and 10 years

  • Kinetic
    Meaning motion or movement

  • Kyphosis
    An abnormal increase in the normal kyphotic curvature of the thoracic spine. Hump back curvature or any forward bending area or deformity of the spine

  • Kyphosis
    An abnormal increase in the normal kyphotic curvature of the thoracic spine. Hump back curvature or any forward bending area or deformity of the spine

  • Lamina
    A flattened part of the vertebral arch that covers the spinal cord and nerves

  • Laminectomy
    Excision of one or more laminae of the vertebrae

  • Lateral
    To the side away from the midline

  • Ligament
    A band of fibrous, flexible connective tissue that is attached near the ends of a bone. It provides stability and limits some joint motion

  • Ligamentum Flavum
    A band of yellow elastic tissue that runs between the laminae of the 1st cervical vertebrae to the sacrum serving to close the spaces between the vertebral arches and giving stability to the vertebral column

  • Lipoma
    A benign fatty tumour

  • Lordoscoliosis
    Abnormal lateral curve associated with a backward spinal curve

  • Lordosis
    A normal forward curve in the neck and lower back

  • Lumbago
    A non medical term for lower lumbar back pain

  • Lumbar
    The lumbar spine is situated between the thoracic spine and the sacrum

  • Lumbar curve
    A lordotic curve from 1st and 5th vertebrae

  • Lumbar kyphosis
    The reverse of the normal curve of the lower back

  • Luxation

  • Magnetic resonance Imaging (MRI)
    A diagnostic test that produces a cross section of the body – defining structures within the brain and the spine

  • Malignant

  • Marginal osteophytes
    Excessive bone that forms at the margin of the vertebral body

  • Medial
    Towards the middle or midline of the body

  • Minimally invasive surgery
    Surgery that is conducted through a small incision

  • Myelalgia
    Pain from the spinal cord

  • Myelapoplexy
    Loss of nerve strength caused by a disorder of the spinal cord

  • Myelatelia
    Imperfect development of the spinal cord

  • Mylogram
    An x-ray of the spinal canal following an injection of a contrast into the CSF

  • Nerve
    A whitish cord like structure composed of one or more bundles of myelinated or non myelinated fibres

  • Nerve root
    The proximal end of the nerve close to the spinal cord

  • 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

  • Neurolysis
    Excision of scar tissue from a nerve or nerve root

  • Neuroma
    A tumour largely made up of nerve fibres

  • Neuromuscular scoliosis
    Scoliosis caused from a muscle disorder

  • Neuropathic pain
    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 effected nerve or near the spinal cord the pain is transformed to a tingling sensation

  • Neuro surgery
    A surgical speciality that is involved with the treatment of brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerve disorders

  • Non union
    Failure of a fracture to heal or to obtain bony fusion following arthrodesis

  • Nucleus pulposus
    The gelatinous tissue in the centre of an intervertebral disc

  • Occiput
    The base of the skull

  • Oedema
    A collection of fluid (swelling) usually extra cellular

  • Oesophagus
    The long tube that takes food from the mouth to the stomach

  • Olisthy
    Slipping of bone or bones from the normal anatomical position

  • Orthopaedics
    The medical speciality that involves the preservation, and restoration of the musculoskeletal system that includes the treatment of spinal disorders and peripheral nerve injury

  • Osteoinductive
    A material with the ability to induce bony growth

  • Ossification
    The process of forming bone in the body

  • 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”.

  • Pain
    An unpleasant sensation associated with actual or potential tissue damage. It is felt as pain due to nerve fibres that travel from the sight of dysfunction to the brain

  • Paraplegia
    Paralysis of the lower extremities

  • Paravertebral muscle spasm
    Spasm of the muscles either side of the spinous process that can cause intense pain

  • Pars Interarticulars
    The superior and inferior facets are joined to each others by the “pars”

  • Pathology
    The study of disease

  • Pedicle
    The strongest part of the neural arch that joins the lamina to the vertebral body

  • Physiotherapy
    Exercising specific parts of the body to relearning movement, regain range of movement or rehabilitate part of the body

  • Piriformis Syndrome
    A diagnosis based on pain in the buttock leading down the back of the thigh otherwise known as sciatica

  • Platysma
    The thin outermost muscle in the anterior neck

  • Plexus
    A network of inter joining nerves, blood vessels or lymphatic vessels

  • Posterior
    Towards the back of the body or the back of a structure with in the body

  • Posterior fusion
    A fusion in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar regions that has been approached from the back

  • Prosthesis
    A term used to describe surgical implants used in the body

  • Proximal
    Nearest the centre or midline of the body

  • Pseudoarthrosis
    A form of non union where the fusion has formed a false joint

  • 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
    Disease of the nerve roots near the spinal cord as a result of direct pressure form a disc, or inflammation of the nerve root due to disc or spinal joint disease

  • Radiologist
    A medical doctor with specialised training in the interpretation of x-rays, MRI and CT’s.

  • 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
    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

  • Retrolisthesis
    Posterior displacement of vertebrae one on top of the other

  • Rhizolysis
    Freeing of the vertebral nerve root

  • Sacral
    The sacrum is the lowest five fused vertebral segments of the spinal column

  • Sagittal
    Means longitudinal

  • Sciatica
    A lay term that describes pain that travels from the buttock down the posterior thigh following the sciatic nerve

  • Scoliosis
    A lateral curvature of the spine

  • Spinal Canal
    The bony canal made up of the neural arch one on top of the other that encases the spinal cord

  • Spinal Cord
    Longitudinal cord of nerves that ends at the level of L1

  • Spinal Fusion
    A surgical method for stabilising and strengthening the spinal column

  • Spinal Stenosis
    Denotes the narrowing of the spinal canal leading to nerve root compression

  • Spine
    The flexible column of 33 bones that are called vertebrae

  • Spinous Process
    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
    Varying degrees posterior or inferior vertebral displacement. This can be as a result of degeneration, genetics or trauma

  • Spondylolysis
    A defect in the neural arch between the superior and inferior facets. This does not necessarily indicate vertebral displacement

  • 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

  • Stenosis
    Reduction in the diameter of the spinal canal or lateral foramen, causing pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots

  • Tendon
    Made up primarily of collagen, is a fibrous band of tissue that connects muscle to bone

  • Tension
    An act of stretching or pulling tight

  • Thoracic
    The region of the spine at the level of the chest

  • 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
    A pulling force on a limb or spinal column in a distal direction

  • Transitional Vertebrae
    A vertebrae that has elements of two types of vertebrae. For example the fifth lumbar vertebrae which has partial sacral components

  • Transverse
    Crosswise, lying across the long axis of the body or body part

  • Transverse process
    A bony process that extends out from the mid portion of the neural arch, giving rise to the arms of the cross

  • Ultrasound
    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

  • Ureter
    16 to 18 inch tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder

  • Vagus nerve
    The tenth 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

  • Vasodilatation
    An increase in the diameter of the blood vessels

  • Vasospasm
    Spasm of the blood vessel causing vasoconstriction

  • Vertebra
    One of 33 bones that make up the spinal column that protects the spinal cord and gives the body’s trunk stability

  • Vertebral body
    This is the main rectangular portion of the vertebra

  • Whiplash
    A common term used to describe hyperextension and hyperflexion of the neck

  • 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
    Ionising 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

If you suffer from back pain or have a back issue, please book in with one of our spinal surgeons for an assessment.

For appointments and enquiries please phone  1300 975 800

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