Common Terms

The following definitions should help you navigate your treatment plan:

  • Artificial disc replacement. The replacement of your natural disc with an artificial disc created to maintain motion and provide stability to the spine.
  • Cervical spine. That portion of the spine in your neck.
  • Degenerative spine disease. "Wear-and-tear" changes in the bones, ligaments, and discs of the spine, which can lead to pain, weakness, or numbness.
  • Disc. Thought of as the "shock absorber" of the spine. The discs sit between each of the bones of the spine (vertebrae) and provide both stability and flexibility to the spine.
  • Disc bulge. Weakness of the fibrous ring containing the disc. This weakness allows the gelatinous, shock absorbant material to bulge out. It can be a normal part of aging but may also cause symptoms.
  • Disc herniation. The process by which a fragment of a disc is displaced from the rest of the disc. The fragment can put pressure on nerve roots or the spinal cord and can cause weakness, pain, and numbness.
  • Diskectomy. Removal of disc material from the spine. The surgery usually involves removing a displaced fragment to take pressure off a nerve or the spinal cord.
  • Fusion. Surgically stabilizing or eliminating movement between two vertebrae (spinal bones). Fusion is typically performed when the spine has been weakened to the point that it cannot support the body when walking or sitting without producing pain or other symptoms. Spinal fusion may be performed with or without incorporating metal into the spine, depending on the circumstances.
  • Instrumentation. The implantation of metal screws and rods into the spine in order to stabilize it. The metal is typically titanium, which allows patients to safely get postoperative MRIs, if needed.
  • Laminectomy. Surgical removal of the "lamina" a part of the vertebra (spinal bone). Laminectomy is typically performed to take pressure off the nerve roots or spinal cord.
  • Lumbar spine. That portion of the spine in your lower back.
  • Myelopathy, cervical. Symptoms such as weakness, numbness, pain, paralysis, and loss of bowel or bladder control related to compression of the spinal cord in the neck.
  • Radiculopathy. Symptoms related to compression of the nerve roots, such as weakness, numbness, pain, paralysis, and loss of bowel or bladder control.
  • Spinal instability. A condition in which your spine is structurally weakened and unable to support you when walking or sitting without producing pain or other symptoms. Instability can result from trauma or injury, or from "wear-and-tear" changes in the aging spine. The condition may be treated by providing additional structural support, known as stabilizing the spine.
  • Spinal stenosis. A narrowing of the spinal canal, which holds the spinal cord and nerve roots. This narrowing puts pressure on the nerve roots and spinal cord, leading to weakness, pain, or numbness.
  • Spondylolysthesis. "Slippage" of one vertebra over another, which weakens your spine's structural stability.
  • Spinal stenosis. A narrowing of the spinal canal, which holds the spinal cord and nerve roots. This narrowing puts pressure on the nerve roots and spinal cord, leading to weakness, pain, or numbness.
  • Thoracic spine. That portion of the spine in the middle of your back between the shoulder blades. The thoracic spine is located between the cervical spine and the lumbar spine.
  • Vertebrae. The bones of the spine. These are normally aligned, one on top of the other, with discs in between acting as shock absorbers.

 


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