Spine Glossary


Achondroplastic Stenosis – When pedicles experience shortened lengths and there is a thickening of vertebral

Acute – Intense, critical

Adolescent Scoliosis – Scoliosis (spine developing a curvature) that begins in adolescence

Adult Scoliosis – Scoliosis (spine developing a curvature) that begins after adolescence

Afferent Neuron – A neuron sent from one part of the body to the central nervous system

Allograft – Used for spinal fusions, referring to a bone graft where the source of the bone is another individual

Analgesia – The loss of any sensation of pain

Anesthesia – Anesthetic drugs causing loss of consciousness or sensation to a part of the body

Anesthetist – A physician specifically trained to handle pain and anesthesia

Anterior – Front

Anterior Approach – When a procedure involves going through the body front to reach the spine

Anterior Cervical Discectomy – To remove herniated discs, this procedure requires approaching from the neck front

Anterior Cervical Decompression Fusion – A procedure involving the decompression of nerve roots along the upper spine

Anterior Displacement – A vertebral segment’s movement forward, causing displacement

Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) – A procedure involving lumbar spinal fusion in which the surgeon begins at the front

Anterior lateral – Front and side approaches

Anterior Lateral Approach – A procedure involving rib resection in which the surgeon approaches from the side

Anti-coagulant – Blood-thinning medication

Arachnoid – A fine and delicate membrane that sits between the pia mater and the dura mater, covering the spinal cord and the brain

Arthralgia – Pain of the joints

Arthritis – A condition in which a joint experiencing pain and swelling due to inflammation

Arthrodesis – When bones are fused together along a joint; this can occur on its own or due to surgical fusion

Arthroplasty – A procedure where a joint is replaced or remodeled to restore its function

Atlas – The superior cervical vertebra in the spine

Atrophy – The slow decay or rot of body tissue from lack of use

Autogenous Bone – A bone that comes from the same patient

Autologus – Referring to the process when a person has a bone graft for themselves

Avascular – When a structure is lacking blood vessels


Back Ache – Any and all pain located in the back or spine

Backbone – The spine

Benign – Not cancerous, meaning it will stay in its location

Bio Compatibility – A foreign material that does not cause any immune response in a human

Biopsy – Bone or tissue for test purposes

BMP – Bone Morphogenic Protein

Bone – The calciferous material that makes up the framework of the body’s muscles and tendons in a skeletal structure

Bone Derivative – A certain bone-sourced substance

Bone Graft Substitute – A non-bone material with the intention to initiate bone growth

Bone Graft – Bone sourced from one place for another in the same person

Bone Harvesting – Taking bones from one place to another site

Bone Plate – Made of titanium or metal, used to fix bones in place

Bone Screws – Used to keep bone plates against bones

Bovine Bone Graft – Bone grafts sourced from cows

Brace – An item that helps keep the back fixed


Cancellous Bone – This is inside of long bones, as a structure similar to a honeycomb

Carotid Artery – The vessel that supplies much blood to the brain and head

Cartilage – Tissue that wraps over bones at the ends, reducing joint friction

Cauda Equina – Nerve roots that lead to the lower half of the body

Cauda Equina Syndrome – The condition in which nerve roots are irritate, leading to abnormalities of bladder function

Centrum – Vertebrae body

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) – A fluid that keeps the spinal cord and brain safe from shock

Cervical – The neck area

Cervical Collar – A band patients wear around the neck after surgery or injury

Cervical Plexus – Nerves that connect to the muscles in the neck

Cervical Decompression – The freeing or decompression of cervical nerve roots

Cervical Fusion – Bone plates, cages, and bone screws used to fixate cervical vertebrae

Coagulation – Referring to blood clotting

Cobult – Chrome – A mixture of metals, used for implants

Coccyx – When the bottom 4 bones of the spine are fused into a single structure

Collagen – The protein that makes up bones, cartilage, tendons, skin, and more

Compensatory Curve – The curve that keeps the body stable below or above site of scoliosis

Compression – Squeezing or pressing an area tighter

Computer Tomography (CT) – A scan that produces a 3D image of bone or tissue

Congenital Scoliosis – Scoliosis caused by genes

Contrast Medium – A fluid that defines structures during a procedure

Cortical Bone – A bone’s outer layer

Cytology – Study of cells


Decompression – Procedures that remove stress or pressure on nerve roots

Degenerative Disc Disease – Loss of functional and structural integrity of discs

Degenerative Stenosis – Gradual degeneration or narrowing o facet joints and vertebral margins

Demineralized Bone – When inorganic mineral is removed from allograft bone, leaving behind collagen

Dermatome – A single spinal nerve supplies this area of skin

Disc – Specialized tissue that rests between the bones in the spine

Discitis – Inflammation between intervertebral discs

Discogram – A procedure that examines intervertebral discs with x-rays

Distal – In terms of location, this is away from the joint or attachment

Dysesthesia – A strange, painful sense of touch

Dysplastic – Having abnormal development or cells


Edema – Extra cellular fluid

Electroencephalography (EEG) – The study of the brain’s electrical activity

Endogenous – Coming from inside a body

Epidural – The area beyond the dura mata

Esophagus – The tube that connects the stomach to the mouth where food travels

Excision – Removing body tissue

Exogenous – Not coming from inside a body

Extrusion – Disc material that is still part of the central disc but has herniated


Facet – Every vertebrae has its own inferior and superior facet which make up the joints

Facet Arthropathy – The degeneration of facet joints

Facectomy – Removal of articular facet

Fibrosis – Using hardened scar tissue to take the place of regular tissue

Flattening of the Normal Lumbar Curve – Shallow lumbar curves

Flexion – Flexing or bending in a forward direction

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – A government agency of the United States that applies regulations over food, medical devices, and drugs

Foramen – The passage inside a bone where spinal nerve roots pass

Foraminotomy – When the foramen is widened or opened in surgery

Fracture – When bone length is disrupted in some way

Functional Scoliosis – A normal spine in structure that has scoliosis (a curve)

Fusion – Healing of bone


Graft – Bone or tissue to be used for transplantation


Hemangioma – A non-cancerous tumor made up entirely of blood cells

Hematoma – The blood that turns into a clot

Hematomyelia – The spinal cord with a hematoma

Hematorrhachis – A hemorrhage based inside of the vertebral canal

Hemi – A single side

Hemi Atrophy – The waste or rot of a single side of a body or organ

Hemi Laminectomy – Referring to the removal of a single side of the lamina

Hemiplegia – When a single side of the body experiences paralysis

Haemorrhage – Bleeding caused by blood leaving through blood vessels

Hereditary – Genetic traits or DNA passed on from parent to offspring

Herniation Intervertebral Disc (HID) – When a bulging part of a disc forms an outpouching that presses into an individual’s vertebral canal

Herniation of Nucleus Pulposus (HNP) – The prolapse or extrusion of a disc within a tear around the annulus fibrosus, causing pain

Herniation – Protrusion

Heterotopic Bone Formation – A condition in which bone grows in an unusual area

Hyoid Bone – A bone beside the trachea

Hyper – Excessive, over average

Hyperesthesia – Having above normal sensitivity to stimuli and touch

Hyperextension – A limb or spine that has been bent backward beyond normal range

Hyperflexion – A limb or spine that has been bent forward beyond normal range

Hyperthermia – The condition in which the body is well above normal temperature

Hyperlordosis – This condition is also known as saddleback, and refers to the intense inward curve of the lower back

Hypothermia – The condition in which the body is well below normal temperature


Idioopathic – The source or origin of which is unknown

Idiopathic Scoliosis – Unusual curve of the spine with unknown origin

Iliac Crest – A large part of the pelvic bone that is often used for bone grafts

Immobilization of the Back – Fixating of the back to boost healing

Infantile Scoliosis – Scoliosis (spine developing a curvature) that begins during infancy (3 years and younger)

Instrumentation – The involvement of surgical instruments during surgery

Interbody – The space between two vertebrae

Interspinous Ligament – Between spinous processes, this is the ligament

Interspinous Pseudarthrosis – When a false joint forms between a pair of spinous processes

Intervertebral Discs – Refer to disc

Intervertebral Disc Narrowing – When the space between adjacent vertebral bodies becomes smaller

Invivo – Inside of a body that is alive

Inferior – Below

Informed Consent – The documents a patient signs to indicate they understand the surgery

Ischemia – A lack of blood circulation pumped towards the brain

Isthmic – Relating to anatomical isthmus, in which a vertebral body slides forward


Joint – The part that connects multiple bones, allowing for a range of movement

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis – A condition of inflammatory joint disease experienced by children

Juvenile Scoliosis – Scoliosis (spine developing a curvature) that begins during childhood (3-10 years of age)


Kinect  – Movement

Kyphosis – A condition of the spine in which the curve is deformed, causing hump back


Lamina – The section of the vertebral arch that goes over the nerves and spinal cord

Laminectomy – Removal of a single or multiple laminae

Lateral – The side

Ligament – Tissue that is attached to the ends of bones, providing motion and stability with its flexibility

Lipoma – A non-cancerous fatty tumor

Lordoscoliosis – Spinal curve that is backward

Lordosis – An average forward curve in the spine

Lumbago – Lower back pain

Lumbar – The part of the spine that sits between the sacrum and the thoracic spine

Lumbar Curve – A curve from the first to the fifth vertebrae of the spine

Lumbar Kyphosis – When the lower back’s regular curve becomes reversed

Luxation – The dislocation of a bone


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – A test that creates an image of the body with a series of x-rays joined together

Malignant – Causing cancer

Marginal Osteophytes – Small protrusions of the bone at the ends of the vertebral body

Medial – Around the middle area of the body

Minimally Invasive Surgery – Surgery that uses only small cuts and incisions

Myelalgia – Pain or discomfort that originates at the spinal cord

Myelapoplexy – A spinal cord disorder that leads to a weakening of nerve strength

Myelatelia – Spinal cord with abnormal developments

Mylogram – A spinal canal x-ray with the use of a contrast injection within the CSF


Nerve – A cord of myelinated and unmyelinated fibers

Nerve Root – The end of a nerve, around the spinal cord

Neural Arch – The curved part of the vertebra that the spinal cord passes through

Neuralgia – Pain that shoots down a single or various nerves

Neurectomy – Removal of a section of a nerve

Neuritis – The condition in which a nerve experiences inflammation

Neurolysis – Removal of the nerve’s or nerve root’s scar tissue

Neuroma – A tumor composed of nerve fibers

Neuromuscular Scoliosis – A muscle disorder causing scoliosis

Neuropathic Pain – Pain that is felt as stabbing or burning caused by nerve tissue damage

Neuropathy – Also known as peripheral neuropathy, causing weakness and numbness in feet and hands

Neurostimulation – A wired device inserted through surgery that is meant to stop pain

Neurosurgery – A subspecialty that specifically works on the brain, spinal cord, and surrounding areas

Non Union – When a fracture fails to heal


Occiput – A skull’s base

Olisthy – The slipping or dislocating of bones

Orthopaedic – A subspecialty of medicine that focuses on the musculoskeletal system, including spinal disorders

Osteoinductive – Something which helps to promote bone growth

Ossification – Bone formation

Osteomyelitis – Bone inflammation caused by ineffective process

Osteophyte – Overgrowth in a bone

Osteoporosis – A condition in which a bone becomes soft due to density loss


Pain – A discomforting sensation associated with tissue damage

Paraplegia – Paralysis of everything below the waist

Paravertebral Muscle Spasm – Muscle spasms alongside the spinous process

Pars Interarticulars – The facets are connected with the “pars”

Pathology – The study of diseases and illnesses

Pedicle – Joining the vertebral body and the lamina, this is the neural arch’s strongest section

Physiotherapy – The therapy focused on exercising body parts to regain movement and flexibility

Piriformis Syndrome – Related to sciatica, or pain in the buttocks down to the thigh

Platysma – The thin layer of muscle along the anterior of the neck

Plexus – A collection of lymphatic vessels, blood vessels, and nerves

Posterior – The back side

Posterior Fusion – Approaching a fusion in the lumbar, thoracic, or cervical areas from the back

Prosthesis – Surgical implants

Proximal – Close to the center

Pseudoarthrosis – Non union in which there is a false joint created by the fusion


Quadriplegia – Paralysis of the arms and legs


Rachialgia – Pain originating in the vertebral column

Rachicentisis – The process of puncturing the lumbar to assess the spinal fluid

Rachiocampsis – The spinal curvature

Rachiopathy – All conditions or diseases related to the spine

Rachioscoliosis – The spinal lateral curvature

Radiologist – A type of doctor that has specialized in understanding scans; MRI, CT, and X-rays

Recombinant Human Protein – Proteins that use recombinant DNA technology for the purpose of created engineered proteins that act like real proteins

Referred Pain – Pain that is distant from its cause or origin

Reflex – A reaction that is involuntary

Retrolisthesis – Posterior displacement of a vertebral body in relation to adjacent vertebra

Rhizolysis – When the vertebral nerve root becomes freed


Sacral – Relating to the sacrum which is the lowest five fused segment in the spinal column

Sagittal – Longitudinal plane that divides the body into right and left parts

Sciatica – Pain triggered by the sciatic nerve characterized as a pain from the buttocks to the posterior thigh

Scoliosis – A medical condition wherein the spine is laterally curved

Spinal Canal – The bony canal that encases the spinal cord

Spinal Cord – A series of nerves that connect the spinal channel, ending at the level of L1

Spinal Fusion – A medical procedure that involves the strengthening and stablization of the spinal column

Spinal Stenosis –  Nerve root compression due to the narrowing of the spinal canal

Spine – Series of 33 flexible bones that support the torso and lower back

Spinous Process – The arch that extends posteriorly and can be traced under the skin

Spondylarthritis – Spine arthritis

Spondylitis – When the spine is inflamed

Spondylolisthesis – Verterbral displacement that can be a result of natural degeneration, trauma, or genetics

Spondylolysis – A detectable anomaly in the arch between the inferior and superior regions

Spondylopathy – A general term for spine disorders

Spondylosis – Gradual degeneration of ligament around the disc that often leads to immobilization

Stenosis – Shrinking of the spinal canal or lateral foramen, leading to pressure in the spinal nerve roots


Tendon –  Collection of fibrous, collagen-rich tissue that connects muscle to bone

Tension – When something is taut or stretched

Thoracic – Spinal region that concerns the chest

Thrombus – Arterial blood clot

Tissue – Similar cells combined that create a separate structure

Titanium – Safe metallic element commonly used as surgical implants

Toxicology – Study of substances and the consequences of overexposure to the body

Traction – The act of pulling towards the surface

Transitional Vertebrae – A condition wherein the spine behaves like the two types of vertebra

Transverse – Lying or extending across a body part

Transverse Process – Small projection on the left and right side of each vertebrae


Ultra Sound – Usage of sound waves to project visuals of internal body systems

Unconvertebral – A spinal condition that results in the formation of abnormal hooks in the vertebrae

Uni – Prefix meaning one-sided

Union – Fusion of bone or tissue as a way of healing and restoration

Ureter – Duct connecting kidney to the bladder


Vagus Nerve – 10th cranial nerves that support motor function

Vascular – Anything relating to vessels, specifically blood vessels

Vasoconstriction – Abnormal shrinkage of blood vessels

Vasodilatation – Blood vessel growth resulting in a wider diameter

Vasospasm – Constriction of blood vessel that reduces flow rate and size

Vertebra –  Singular term for one of the 33 bones that comprise the spine

Vertebral Body – Primary rectangular region of the vertebra


Whiplash –  Describes the overextension or flexing of the neck region

Wire – Metal thread commonly used for fusion surgeries and fracture reparations


Xenograft – Graft or organ transplant from a different donor species

X-Ray – Production of images of the bone in the body through the ionization of electromagnetic radiation

Xylocaine – Common type of local anaesthetic. Also referred to as lidocaine


Z Plasty – Cosmetic surgery that improves the appearance of scars by elongating or rotating the scar line