Glossary

spine_diagramCervical: The cervical spine (neck) has seven vertebral bodies (segments). The top two segments are unique:

  • The first cervical segment is a ring that does not have a vertebral body. It is attached to the second vertebral body, which acts as a post that the first vertebral ring rotates around. Most of the rotation in the neck is located in these top two segments.
  • Like the rest of the spine, the next five vertebral segments have three joints at each segment, including one disc in the front and paired facet joints in the back.

Disc: A disc is a small mass of elastic, gristle-like tissue. Located between each vertebra in the spinal column, discs act as shock absorbers for the spinal bones. Thick ligaments attached to the vertebrae hold the pulpy disc material in place.

Decompression: The term decompression refers to a surgical procedure that relieves pressure from a structure.

FDA: The acronym FDA stands for Food and Drug Administration. It is the governing body in the United States that approves medical devices and drugs for use in the general population.

Herniated Disc: When some of the disc material pops out of place and bulges into the spinal canal, this is also known as a bulging, slipped or ruptured disc. Occasionally, a single excessive strain may cause a herniated disc. However, disc material degenerates naturally as we age, and the ligaments that hold it in place begin to weaken. As this degeneration progresses, a relatively minor strain or twisting movement can cause a disc to pop out of place.

Laser: The term LASER refers to Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation; produces an intense monochromatic beam of coherent light, which results in a cascade of emitted radiation.

Lumbar: The lumbar spine (lower back) has five vertebral bodies that extend from the lower thoracic spine (chest) to the sacrum (bottom of the spine). The vertebral bodies are stacked on top of each other with a disc in between each one. Fifty percent of flexion (bending forward) occurs at the hips, and fifty percent occurs at the lower (lumbar) spine. The motion is divided between the five motion segments in the lumbar spine, although a disproportionate amount of the motion is at L4-L5 (lumbar segment 4 and 5) and L3-L4 (lumbar segment 3 and 4). Consequently, these two segments are the most likely to break down with degeneration. As these segments break down they can become unstable with an excess of motion creating pain.

MRI: The MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) was developed in the 1980's and has revolutionized treatment for patients with low back pain. An MRI scan is generally considered to be the single best imaging study of the spine. The MRI works by rotating a magnet around a patient, which changes the excitation level of hydrogen atoms in the body. When the hydrogen atoms revert back to their normal level of excitation, they emit a slight amount of radiation that is then picked up on a scanner. The developed image shows anatomy by differentiating between tissues that have a lot of water (such as fat, cerebrospinal fluid or discs) and tissues that do not have much water (such as bone, cartilage, and nerve roots).

Percutaneous: The term percutaneous refers to the method of performing the procedure through the skin and not by cutting the skin or soft tissue.

Thoracic: The thoracic spine (upper back) has twelve vertebral bodies. These structures have very little motion because they are firmly attached to the ribs and sternum (breastbone). Because there is little motion, this region of the spine is not usually a source of pain.