Definition of Terms

  • Bone Spurs:

    Bone spurs (osteophytes) refer to bony overgrowths. Bone spurs commonly occur in the back of the spine, and they are prominent in older people. Bone spurs can compress surrounding nerve structures and cause pain and nerve related symptoms. Facet joint bone spurs causes neck and low back pain when facet joints move.

  • Bulging Disc:

    A bulging disc (also known as disc bulge) means 50% or more of a disc is being squeezed to beyond its adjacent vertebral body boundaries. Disc bulging generally indicates an increase of the spinal load and weakness of a spinal disc.

  • Disc Degeneration:

    Disc degeneration refers to the changes of the spinal discs resulted from chronic wear and tear, or injury. These changes include loss of water in the central disc (disc desiccation), disruption of the disc annulus, and new growth of pain nerve fibers into the damaged discs.

  • Disc Herniation:

    Disc herniation means moving central disc material (nucleus) through broken disc annulus. Depending on the location, a herniated disc may be contained (within the disc), extruded (outside of the disc), or sequestered (disc fragment falling out of the disc).

  • Disc Tears:

    Disc tears generally refer to tearing of the disc annular tissue, which is often caused by disc degeneration and trauma. Central disc material (nucleus) often moves into the torn annulus, forming an interpositional disc herniation, or moves through the torn disc to the outside of the disc annulus, causing a disc herniation.

  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome:

    Back spine surgery is commonly used for the treatment of lower back pain. Surgical operations are typically performed for spinal decompression and spinal fusions using cages, bone graft, bars and screws. If a patient continues to have symptoms of back and leg pain after a surgical operation, the patient’s condition is called failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS).

  • Failed Neck Surgery Syndrome:

    Failed neck surgery syndrome means a patient continues to feel neck pain and or arm pain following a traditional open neck surgery.

  • Facet Joint Disease:

    The facet joints are part of the connection between the adjacent vertebrae. When the spine wears and tears, the spinal discs become thinner, placing more of the burden of support onto the facet joints. The increased stress causes inflammation and formation of bone spurs.

  • Foraminal Stenosis:

    A foramen is a small hole through which the nerve roots exit the spine. Foraminal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the small holes. The most common causes of foraminal stenosis include bone spurs (bony projections), disc herniations, disc bulging, arthritis and ligament thickening.

  • Pinched nerve:

    Spinal nerves exit the spinal column from each side. Nerves controlling sensation and movement of the upper extremities exit through the cervical spine, whereas nerves controlling sensation and movement of the low extremities exit from the lumbar spine. Spinal nerves can be compressed (pinched) by disc herniations, bone spurs (bony projections formed on normal bone), scars, ligament hypertrophy, and narrowing of the nerve canal due to the loss of disc space heights.

  • Radiculitis:

    Radiculitis means inflammation of the spinal nerve roots. It is often caused by chemical irritation introduced by disc tears and/or mechanical compressions from disc herniations or foraminal stenosis. Patients with radiculitis feel burning pain, pins and needles and numbness along the nerve paths.

  • Radiculopathy:

    Radiculopathy refers to chronic injuries of the spinal nerve roots caused by prolonged nerve irritation or compression. Patients with radiculopathy feel burning pain, pins and needles and numbness. Muscle weakness and atrophy may also occur if the compression persists.

  • Sciatica:

    Sciatica refers to radiculitis or radiculopathy of the lumbosacral spine. Patients suffering from sciatica feel lower back pain, which may extend to the buttock, hamstring, calf and foot. In addition to pain, patients may also feel tingling and numbness.

  • Spinal Stenosis:

    Stenosis means narrowing in medicine. Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal. The most common causes of spinal stenosis are wear and tear or degeneration of the spine. Stenosis starts with spinal disc changes such as tearing, bulging, scarring, herniating and narrowing. Gradually, the spinal facet joint becomes inflamed, the ligaments in the spinal canal and nerve holes become overgrown and bone spurs form on the vertebrae and facets. These new growths compress the spinal cord and spinal nerves causing pain.

  • Spondylolisthesis:

    Spondylolisthesis is a medical term used for spine slippage. The human spine is beautifully aligned in an S shape. Degenerative spinal slippage is caused by weakness of ligaments and isthemic slippage is caused by a fracture or fractures in vertebral bone (pars interarticularis defect).

Endoscopic spine procedures can be used to correct many of the conditions that cause chronic back pain or to repair failed previous surgeries.

- Kaixuan Liu, MD, PhD President, Atlantic Spine Center Read More about Dr.Liu
Dr. Liu