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Glossary - Spine, Shoulder, and Pelvis Disorders

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abdominal bracing - technique of tensing the stomach muscles to support the spine.

acromion - the roof, or highest point, of the shoulder that is formed by a part of the scapula, or shoulder blade.

adhesions - abnormal bands of tissue that grow between the joint surfaces, restricting motion.

allodynia - pain due to a stimulus that does not normally provoke pain.

analgesia - absence of pain in response to stimulation that would normally be painful.

ankylosing spondylitis - a disease that affects the spine, causing the bones of the spine to grow together.

antibody - special protein produced by the body's immune system that recognizes and helps fight infectious agents and other foreign substances that invade the body.

artery - any tubular, branching vessel that carries blood from the heart throughout the body.

arthralgia - pain in a joint, usually due to arthritis or arthropathy.

arthritis - inflammation of a joint, usually accompanied by pain, swelling, and sometimes change in structure.

arthrogram - an x-ray to view bone structures following an injection of a contrast fluid into a joint area. When the fluid leaks into an area that it does not belong, disease or injury may be considered, as a leak would provide evidence of a tear, opening, or blockage.

arthroscopy - a minimally-invasive diagnostic and treatment procedure used for conditions of a joint. This procedure uses a small, lighted, optic tube (arthroscope) which is inserted into the joint through a small incision in the joint. Images of the inside of the joint are projected onto a screen; used to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joint; to detect bone diseases and tumors; to determine the cause of bone pain and inflammation.

atrophy - wasting away of a body part or tissue.


benign - non-cancerous.

bursa - a sac filled with fluid located between a bone and a tendon or muscle.

bursitis - repeated small stresses and overuse that cause the bursa to swell and become irritated.


cartilage - a smooth material that covers bone ends of a joint to cushion the bone and allow the joint to move easily without pain.

computed tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan.) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.

congenital - present at birth.

contusion - bruise.

corticosteroids (Also called glucocorticoids.) - potent anti-inflammatory hormones that are made naturally in the body or synthetically for use as drugs; most commonly prescribed drug of this type is prednisone.


dislocation - a dislocation occurs when extreme force is put on a ligament causing the two bone ends to separate. Dislocations can also affect a joint, the point where two or more bones come together. The joint is created as a "ball-and-socket" joint. A dislocated joint causes the head of the bone (ball) to partially or completely come out of the socket.


erythrocyte sedimentation rate (Also called ESR or sed rate.) - a measurement of how quickly red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube. When swelling and inflammation are present, the blood's proteins clump together and become heavier than normal. Thus, when measured, they fall and settle faster at the bottom of the test tube. Generally, the faster the blood cells fall, the more severe the inflammation.


femur - thighbone.

fibromyalgia (Also called fibrositis.) - a chronic, widespread pain in muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints throughout the body.

fracture - a break in a bone.


giant cell arteritis (Also called cranial arteritis, temporal arteritis, or Horton's disease.) - disease causing inflammation of the temporal arteries and other arteries in the head and neck, causing the arteries to narrow, reducing blood flow in the affected areas; may cause persistent headaches and vision loss;


hip - the region on each side of the pelvis; made up of three sections: ilium, ischium, and pubis; the upper part of the femur (upper leg bone) fits into the hip via a ball-and-socket joint; the socket is a cup-shaped bone of the pelvis, called the acetabulum, and the ball is the head of the femur.

humerus - the bone of the upper arm.


immune system - complex network of specialized cells and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by "foreign" invaders such as bacteria and viruses; in some rheumatic conditions, it appears that the immune system does not function properly and may even work against the body.

incidence - statistic that equals the number of new cases of a particular disease that occur in a population during a defined period of time, usually one year.

inflammation - a normal reaction to injury or disease, which results in swelling, pain, and stiffness.


joint - where the ends of two or more bones meet.


kyphosis - a forward curvature of the back bones (vertebrae) in the upper back area, giving a "humpback" appearance.


ligaments - a white, shiny, flexible band of fibrous tissue that binds joints together and connects various bones and cartilage.

lower back (Also called lumbar spine.) - a complex structure that connects the upper body to the lower body; consists of vertebrae, disks, spinal cord, and nerves.


magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

musculoskeletal system - the complex system involving the body's muscles and skeleton, and including the joints, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.

myelogram - involves the injection of a dye or contrast material into the spinal canal; a specific x-ray study that also allows careful evaluation of the spinal canal and nerve roots.


neuralgia - pain in distribution of nerve or nerves.

neuritis - inflammation of a nerve or nerves.

NSAID - abbreviation for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which do not contain corticosteroids and are used to reduce pain and inflammation; aspirin and ibuprofen are two types of NSAIDs.


occult - disease or symptoms that are not readily detectable by physical examination or laboratory tests.

orthopaedic surgeon (Also called an orthopaedist.) - a physician who diagnoses, treats, manages the rehabilitation process, and provides prevention protocols for patients who suffer from injury or disease in any of the components of the musculoskeletal system.

orthopaedic surgery (Also called orthopaedics.) - the medical specialty devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention of injuries and diseases of the body's musculoskeletal system.

osteitis pubis - an inflammation of the pubic symphysis, the bone to which the two hip bones connect in front of the body.

osteoporosis - a condition that develops when bone is no longer replaced as quickly as it is removed.

overuse conditions - injuries due to minor trauma involving soft-tissue injuries - injuries that affect the bone, muscles, ligaments, and/or tendons.


pain - an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience primarily associated with tissue damage, or described in terms of tissue damage, or both.

pain threshold - the least experience of pain that a person can recognize.

pain tolerance level - the greatest level of pain that a person is prepared to tolerate.

pelvis - a basin-shaped structure that supports the spinal column containing the sacrum, coccyx, and hip bones (ilium, pubis, and ischium).

polymyalgia rheumatica - condition of unknown cause that affects the lining of joints, particularly in the shoulders and hips.

predisposition - tendency to develop a certain disease.

prevalence - statistic that equals the total number of people in a population with a certain disease at a given time.

prosthesis - an artificial body part replacement.



radionuclide bone scan - a nuclear imaging technique that uses a very small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into the patient's bloodstream to be detected by a scanner. This test shows blood flow to the bone and cell activity within the bone.

range of motion - measurement of the extent to which a joint can go through all its normal spectrum of movements.

rheumatoid factor - special kind of antibody often found in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

R.I.C.E. - Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

rotator cuff - consists of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder in place.


scapula - shoulder blade.

sciatica (Also called lumbar radiculopathy.) - a pain that originates along the sciatic nerve.

scoliosis - a lateral, or sideways, curvature and rotation of the back bones (vertebrae), giving the appearance that the person is leaning to one side.

soft tissues - the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the musculoskeletal system.

somatosensory - refers to sensory signals from all tissues of the body including skin, viscera, muscles, and joints.

spine - a column in the body consisting of 33 vertebrae.

spondylosis - a degenerative process of the cervical spine that causes narrowing of the spinal canal and neural foramina, and produces compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots.

sprain - a partial or complete tear of a ligament.

strain - a partial or complete tear of a muscle or tendon.

stress fracture - a bone injury caused by overuse.

synovial fluid - a clear, sticky fluid that is released by the synovial membrane and acts as a lubricant for joints and tendons.

systemic - disease or symptoms that affect many different parts of the body.


temporal arteries - vessels located over the temples on each side of the head, that supply blood to part of the head.

tendon - the tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones.

tendonitis - an inflammation in a tendon or the tendon covering.

torticollis (Also called wryneck.) - a twisting of the neck that causes the head to rotate and tilt on an angle.

trigger point - hypersensitive area or site in muscle or connective tissue, usually associated with myofascial pain syndromes.


ultrasound - a diagnostic technique which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs.




x-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.



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