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Glossary of Back Care Terms

Acupuncture A therapy using fine needles to control the body’s energy flows.
Analgesic Pain-killing.
Anti-inflammatory Reducing the inflammation that causes pain.
Ankylosing spondylitis A painful disease that causes the joints to swell up and the bones to fuse together.
Bilateral On both sides of the body.
Cervical Refers to the seven vertebrae that make up the neck.
Coccyx The last bone of the spine, often called the ‘tail bone’, made up of four tiny joined vertebrae.
Congenital Present at birth.
Conservative management The non-surgical treatment of back problems.
Diagnosis Identification of a disease or change in a person’s mind and/or body.
Degeneration of the disc The discs between the vertebrae break up as they become more rigid, restricting movement of the spine and increasing wear on the vertebrae.
Epidural Drugs injected into the spine, for the relief of pain.
Facet joints The point at which two vertebrae meet and move against each other.
Fracture A break in the bone.
Herbalism Use of plants and herbal remedies to treat illness.
Herniated Bulging through a part of the body, such as the soft core of a disc through its tough outer coating.
Inflammation The body’s reaction to injury or disease, which includes swelling, pain, heat and tenderness.
Intramuscular Given by injection into a muscle.
Intravenous Given by injection into a vein.
Ligament Bands of fibrous tissue that bind the bones together at a joint.
Lumbago An imprecise term for low back pain.
Non-specific lower back pain A name sometimes given to pain caused by damage to the muscles and ligaments in and around the lumbar vertebrae.
Nerve root The start of a nerve as it leaves the spinal cord.
Occupational therapists Health professionals, also known as OT’s, who find ways to help people live at home independently, despite their illness.
Orthopaedic Referring to the branch of medicine which deals with problems of the skeleton.
Osteoporosis A disease which makes the bone less dense and more brittle.
Pathology The branch of medicine concerned with the examination of diseased tissues.
Pelvis The bony circle formed by the hip bones and the sacrum and coccyx of the lower back.
Prognosis An assessment of the expected future course and outcome of a person’s disease.
Psychologist A specialist in the processes of the mind and behaviour.
Radiographer The member of the health care team who takes x-rays and scans.
Radiologist A doctor who understands and interprets a scan or an x-ray.
Radiology The use of x-rays in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
Sacrum The solid flat area at the bottom of the spine forming the back of the pelvis, consisting of five fused vertebrae.
Sciatica Pain along the length of the sciatic nerve running down the back of the leg. Often used to describe leg symptoms.
Scoliosis A sideways curvature of the spine.
Shiatsu A form of massage which works on the energy flow around the body, and which can be helpful for stress-related conditions.
Spasm Sudden and/or continued contraction of muscles, which can cause immobilising pain.
Spinal canal The hole running down the length of the spine, containing the spinal cord.
Spinal stenosis Narrowing of the width of spinal canal, which may put pressure on the nerves.
Spondylolisthesis A condition in which one vertebra slips out of alignment with the other.
Spondylosis A condition of the spine resulting from wear and tear and degeneration. It causes the discs to narrow and extra bone growth to occur between disc and vertebrae.
Symptom A change in the body and the way it works, usually indicating disease or injury.
Therapy A word often used to mean treatment.
Thoracic Referring to the chest area, or the 12 thoracic vertebrae to which ribs connect.

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