Medical Terminology

  1. Intervertebral Foramen: The intervertebral foramen (also called neural foramen, and often abbreviated as IV foramen or IVF), is a foramen (an opening) between two spinal vertebrae. Cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae all have intervertebral foramina. The foramina, or openings, are present between every pair of vertebrae in these areas.
  2. Intervertebral Discs: A vertebral disc is the shock-absorbing structure made up of toughest tissue in the body, which are between each two vertebrae. The disc has a thick outer layer (annulus fibrosus) that surrounds the soft gel-like center (nucleus polpusus). Intervertebral discs act as cushions in between vertebrae. There are 23 of them and are normally well-hydrated. This allows them to be pliable and absorb stresses in the spine, in turn giving flexibility to the spine.
  3. Bulge Disc: The most common cause of bulged disc is aging. With aging, discs dehydrate, or lose water. This shrinks the disc. The protein elastin within the annulus fibrosis (the outer rings) also change with aging, reducing the disc wall’s resilience and strength. When pressure from the vertebrae above and below is exerted on the disc, the nucleus pulposus pushes outward against the disc wall, a bulge, may develop.
  4. Herniated Disc: The most common cause of herniated disc is a trauma. According to Mayo Clinic, “beyond the aging process, individuals may also experience a herniated disc after lifting heavy and large objects…A fall or blow to the back may also result in a herniated disc injury.” It occurs if the outermost wall of the disc tears or cracks as a result of a trauma, and the nucleus pulposus extrudes/protrudes into the spinal canal/CSF.
  5. Abutment: an MRI expression, it is used to explain the severity of disc damage, where the disc is encroaching into the spinal canal/CSF on one side of the cord, however, on opposite side of cord CSF is still visible. Note: According to American College of Radiology, the ‘Bulge disc’ is chronic and ‘Herniated disc’ is acute, traumatic.
  6. Cord Compression: Disc herniation may lead to Spinal cord compression: The act of exerting an abnormal amount of pressure on the spinal cord by herniated disc, fracture of the spine or a tumor pressing on the spinal cord. In the MRI, the CSF is not visible on either side of the cord. The “cord compression” is more egregious than “cord abutment”.
  7. Myelopathy: Myelopathy refers to compression on the spinal cord due to disc herniation or other lesions, it may involve one or more of the followings: a. motor malfunctions (weakness), b. sensory malfunctions (numbness/tingling/pain), c. altered reflexes (hyperreflexia), d. positive Babinski sign.
  8. Radiculopathy: Radiculopathy, also commonly referred to compression of the spinal nerve, a pinched nerve, refers to a set of conditions in which one or more nerves are affected and do not work properly (a neuropathy). (sensory and motor disturbances, such as severe pain in the neck, shoulder, arm, back, or leg, accompanied by muscle weakness. This can result in pain (radicular pain), weakness, numbness, or difficulty controlling muscles.
  9. Central Nervous System: the brain, brainstem, spinal cord, cauda equine, and (dorsal root ganglions, and the optic nerves.)
  10. Motor Nervous System: (That part of the nervous system that makes one move, by controlling the muscles)
  11. Cervical Spine: The first seven vertebrae/bones in the neck (C1-C7), it has six discs (acting as shock absorbers), that provide support and structure for the skull and brain. They are stacked up in the shape of crescent moon called ‘lordotic curve.’
  12. Lumbar Spine: The lowest part of the spine above the sacrum comprised of five vertebralbodies (L1-L5) and five discs. The vertebral bodies are stacked on top of each other also in the shape of crescent moon called lordotic curve, developed as the result of standing up after crawling.
  13. Stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal which is a risk factor. Spinal stenosisis most commonly caused by degeneration, herniation of the discs, or at times by birth defects. The result is compression of the nerve roots or spinal cord by bony spurs or soft tissues, such as discs, in the spinal canal.
  14. Thecal Sac: the membranous sac made of dura/pia matercovering like a sleeve the CNS (brain, spinal cord, cauda equina, and nerve roots containing cerebrospinal fluid.)
  15. Space Occupying Lesion: physical lesions, eg. herniated disc,  tumor,  hemorrhage,  which  occupy space; the effect is more significant if the growth is within a space confined by bones/vertebrae, e.g. disc bulging or disc herniation against spinal cord or spinal nerve.
  16. Nerve Root: The nerve root is the portion of the nervous system that leaves the spinal cord runs through, and exits the bony canal (intervertebral opening), one on each side.
  17. Cauda Equina: The spinal cord ends at T12-L1 and turns into bundle of nerve roots which resembles “horse’s tail, which in Latin is ‘cauda equina.”
  18. Spondylolysis: Spondylolysis(spon-dee-low-lye-sis) is defined as a defect or a traumatic fracture in the pars interarticularis of the vertebral arch.
  19. Spondylolesthesis:  defined as slippage of a vertebra either forward or backward relative to an adjacent vertebral body below or above. It is most often affects the alignment of the L5 and S1.
  20. Spondylosis: is a broad term meaning spinal arthritis, degeneration of the spinal column. In the more narrow sense it refers to the age-related wear and tear of the annulus fibrosis that cause narrowing of the intervertebral foramen.

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