We have provided a glossary of common spine terms to help you better understand spine conditions and to assist you in your conversation with your Northside Hospital Spine Care Specialist during your appointment.

Please do not hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.

Compression fracture

A fracture caused by the collapse of the vertebra as a result of trauma or weak bones (osteoporosis).

Degenerative disc disease

A degenerative condition that is part of the normal aging process. As a disc deteriorates, it loses its ability to cushion the vertebra. If there is pressure on the nerves, pain in the lower back, legs, neck or arms can result.

Facet joint

A joint linking vertebrae in the spinal column. 

Fused disc

A disc surgically seeded with a piece of bone or surgical protein so that it will grow together, fusing that section of the spine. Some people are born with fused vertebrae and certain conditions cause the vertebrae to fuse without surgery.

Herniated disc

A disc in which the center, viscous substance, the nucleus, has protruded through the hard outer layer. Also called a ruptured or slipped disc.


The unnatural curvature of the spine that produces a hunchback. It's commonly the result of osteoporosis, but spinal tumors and even bad posture are other causes. Also called "dowager's hump."


Degenerative joint disease in which joint halves rub against each other because protective cartilage has eroded, causing pain.


A disease in which bone tissues deteriorates, leaving bones porous and at risk of fracturing easily.

Sacral insufficiency fractures, or insufficiency fractures

Fractures that occur in the sacrum when it has become too weakened to support a person's weight. Usually in elderly women with osteoporosis. 


Any combination of incapacitating pain, numbness or weakness in the leg that is caused by pinching or irritating the sciatic nerve. Commonly the result of a herniated disc. 


A condition in which the spine curves abnormally to the side.

Spinal cord compression

Pressure on the spinal cord from any source, including arthritic bone spurs, herniated discs, tumors and infection.


The narrowing of the spinal canal around the spinal cord as a normal result of the aging process. 

Vertebra, or vertebral body

The bones of the spine that encase and protect the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots.