Acute pain: Pain that results from something specific, such as a surgery, an injury, or an infection, and is generally temporary.

Addiction: The continued use of a mood-altering substance, despite adverse consequences. Hallmarks include lack of control over substance and preoccupation with substance.

Analgesic: A substance that causes a decrease in pain.

Anesthesia: Given during medical procedures to help block pain, control your blood pressure, relax you, or make you unconscious for the procedure.

Anesthetic: A substance that causes lack of feeling (or awareness) and dulls pain.

Anti-inflammatory: Medicine used to relieve swelling and/or pain due to an injury, infection, or irritation.

Artery: A vessel carrying blood high in oxygen content away from the heart and to the farthest reaches of the body.

Arthritis: Inflammation of a joint that causes stiffness, pain, redness, and swelling.

Autograft: Tissue or organ transferred from one part of the body to another within the same individual. 




Bone graft: A piece of existing bone used to take the place of a missing bone in the patient’s own body.

Bone marrow: The soft, fatty tissue that fills the cavities of bones and contains white and red blood cells.

Bone plate: A thin metal implant affixed with screws used to immobilize bone segments by aligning the bone to aid the healing process.




Catheter: A flexible tube that is inserted into a cavity of the body to withdraw or introduce fluid, such as pain relievers or steroids.

Cartilage: The connective, rubbery tissue that cushions bones at the joint.

Cervical vertebra: One of 7 upper vertebrae in the spinal column.

Chronic pain: Pain that persists over a long period of time.

Coccyx: The small tail-like bone at the bottom of the spinal column.

Collagen: The principal protein of the skin, tendons, cartilage, bone, and gives connective tissue its strength and flexibility.

Computer tomography (CT): An imaging method in which the data is taken from multiple x-ray images to put together pictures of structures within the body.

Congenital: A condition that is present at birth, whether or not it is inherited.

Cortical bone: The dense outer surface of bone that forms a protective layer around the marrow cavity.




Disc (also called intervertebral disc): A circular shaped tissue positioned in between each of the vertebrae of the spine. The inner nucleus acts as a shock absorber, while the outer ring (called the annulus) provides strength and structure.

Discography: A procedure which helps diagnose pain by injecting a contrast solution into the disc while watching it using x-rays. The pain produced by the injection of contrast is very important in the accurate interpretation of the test.




Epidural injection: An injection of a substance into the epidural space within the spinal canal to produce anesthesia or pain relief.




Facet block: An injection of local anesthetic near the problematic facet joint in the spine to help diagnose the cause and location of back pain and also to provide pain relief.

Facet joint: Small joints located between and behind adjacent vertebrae. There are two facet joints at each level of the vertebral column (one on each side) providing stability to the spinal column, while also allowing movement.

Fusion: A surgical procedure that immobilizes two or more vertebrae by uniting them together.




General anesthesia: The induction of a state of unconsciousness during a medical procedure through the administration of anesthetic drugs.




Herniated disc: A disruption of the tissue that separates the vertebral bones of the spinal column.

Hyperalgesia: Increased sensitivity to pain.




Immobilization: The process of holding a joint or bone in place to prevent an injured area from moving while it heals using a splint, cast, or brace.

Inflammation: An internal chemical reaction that produces redness, warmth, swelling, and pain due to infection, irritation or injury.




Joint: The area where two bones are attached for the result of motion of body parts.




Kyphoplasty: A surgical procedure that expands and stabilizes compression fractures of the spine.

Kyphosis: An outward curve in the spine causing a humped back.




Local anesthesia: The injection or application of an anesthetic drug that targets a specific area of the body.

Lumbar vertebrae: The five vertebrae that make up your lower back. It is situated between the thoracic vertebrae and the sacral vertebrae.




MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): Uses a large circular magnet and radio waves to generate signals from atoms in the body to produce pictures and organs inside the body.

Mechanical back pain: The general term that refers to any type of back pain caused by the way you move, or by placing abnormal stress and strain on muscles of the vertebral column.




Nerve: A bundle of fibers that uses electrical and chemical signals to transmit sensory and motor information from one body part to another.

Nerve block: A procedure where an injection of an anesthetic agent is given near a nerve to block pain.

Neuropathic pain: Chronic pain as a result of injury to the nervous system.

Neurotransmitters: A chemical messenger released from a nerve cell that transmits an impulse from a nerve cell to another nerve, organ, muscle, or other tissue.

Non- invasive procedure: A treatment that does not require an incision into the body or the removal of tissue.




Opioids: A medicine that suppresses your perception of pain by reducing the pain signals sent to brain.




Pain management: A medical approach that aims towards prevention, diagnosis and treatment of pain.




Referred pain: A pain felt in another part of the body separate from the part generating the pain.




Sacrum: The bottom portion of the spine that lies between the lumbar segment and the coccyx (tailbone).

Scoliosis: A condition involving an abnormal sideways curve in the spine.

Spina Bifida: A congenital disorder that involves the failure of the vertebral canal to close before birth.

Spinal canal: The hollow passage through which the spinal cord runs.

Spinal stenosis: A condition in which the spinal canal narrows in one or more areas, and the spinal cord and/or nerves are compressed or choked.

Spine: 33 individual vertebrae that interlock to form a column from the skull to the small of the back. The spine consists of seven cervical, twelve thoracic and five lumbar vertebrae, in addition to five fused vertebrae of the sacral region and four fused vertebrae forming the coccyx.




Thoracic: The section of the spine that includes twelve rib-bearing vertebrae. It is located between the cervical vertebrae and the lumbar vertebrae, which would be considered the middle of your back.

Tolerance: Decreased responsiveness to a drug, due to a long period of exposure.

Topical anesthesia: A type of anesthesia that is applied on the skin, and they are available as creams, sprays, lotions and jellies.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation: (TENS) An electrical stimulation device that is applied to the body for the treatment of pain. A TENS unit has electrodes that can be placed over the painful area to help ease pain.




Vertebra: One of the 33 bony components that make up the spine.




X-Ray: A diagnostic test that images bones by shooting a high-energy radiation through the body. The calcium in bones blocks penetration of the beam and the image of the bones is picked up as a shadow on a film.