Glossary of terms
Fortius Clinic Logo

Glossary of Orthapedic Terms

Below you will find a glossary of the most commonly used orthopaedic terms, together with simple definitions. Please feel free to ask your consultant for more details.

Click on a letter below to find what you’re looking for.


Back to Top

Achilles Tendonitis

Inflammation of the Achilles tendon (heel cord) caused by increased activity, poor footwear, or tight hamstrings.


(Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Ligament located in the center of the knee that controls rotation and forward movement of the tibia (shin bone).


A condition of quick onset lasting a short time, opposite of chronic.

Adhesive Capsulitis

Self-limiting condition resulting from any inflammatory process about the shoulder in which capsular scar tissue is produced, resulting in pain and limited range of motion; also called frozen shoulder.

Adjunct treatment

A treatment given in addition to another to make each work more effectively.


Biologic material from another source of the same species that is used to surgically replace damaged tissue.


A term used by medical personnel to describe a patient’s ability to walk or move around by themselves.


A medicine that relieves pain without affecting consciousness, the most common of which is aspirin.

Anesthesia dolorosa

A constant pain felt in an area of total numbness; similar to phantom limb pain.


An agent that causes loss of sensation with or without the loss of consciousness.


A doctor who specializes in monitoring your life functions during surgery so that you don’t feel pain.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

An inflammatory disorder that mainly affects the low back and pelvis and produces stiffness and pain.

Annulus (annulus fibrosis)

Tough fibrous outer wall of an intervertebral disc.


Front side of the body.

Anterior longitudinal ligament (ALL)

A strong fibrous ligament that courses along the anterior surface of the vertebral bodies from the base of the skull to the sacrum.


Inflammation or wear and tear of a joint usually accompanied by pain, swelling, and sometimes change in structure.


Aspiration (removal of fluid) of a joint.

Arthrodesis (fusion)

A procedure that permanently joins two or more bony segments.


Any disease or disorder that involves a joint.


Reconstructive surgery of a joint to restore motion.


The surgical, fiber optic tool a physician uses to perform an arthroscopy.


A surgical procedure used to visualize, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint using a minimally invasive arthroscope.


Pertaining to a joint.


Reduction in size of an anatomic structure; frequently related to disuse or decreased blood supply.


Biologic tissue from the patient’s own body that is used to surgically replace damaged tissue.

Autograft (autologous)

A portion of living tissue taken from a part of ones own body and transferred to another for the purpose of fusing two tissues together.

Avulsion Fracture

Fracture that occurs when a ligament or tendon pulls off a sliver of the bone.

Back to Top

Bankhart Lesion

Avulsion of the anterior glenoid labrum in the shoulder, usually associated with anterior shoulder dislocations.

Bennett Lesion

Posterior glenoid defect in the shoulder usually associated with overhead throwing injuries.

Biceps Tendinitis

Inflammation of the biceps tendon in the subacromial location.


Occurring on both sides of the body.


A sample of tissue cells for examination under a microscope to determine the existence or cause of a disease.

Bone graft

Bone taken from one's self (autograft) or from another (allograft) for the purpose of fusing or repairing a defect.

Bone scan

A test used to diagnose fractures of the bone by detecting areas of increased or decreased bone metabolism. A radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream where it collects in the bones of the body and is detected by a gamma camera.

Bone spurs

Bony overgrowths that occur from stresses on bone, also called osteophytes.


An inflammation and thickening of the bursa in the joint of the big toe.


A sac filled with fluid, which acts a cushion, located between a bone and a tendon or muscle.


Inflammation of a bursa.

Burst Fracture

A compression-type fracture of a vertebra that involves posterior displacement of the fragments, often into the spinal canal.

Back to Top

Cancellous bone (sometimes called trabecular bone)

The spongy bone found beneath the hard outer bone that is rich with bone-growing proteins.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

Loss of sensation and sometimes motor control when the median nerve in the wrist is compressed at the carpal ligament.


The hard, thin layer of white glossy tissue that covers the end of a bone at a joint. This tissue allows a motion to take place with a minimum amount of friction.


A stabilizing device used to hold a broken bone in place as it heals, prevents or decreases muscle contractures, or provides immobilization, especially after surgery. Casts prevent the joint above and below the area from moving and keep it straight.

Cauda equina syndrome

Dull pain and loss of feeling in the buttocks, genitals, and/or thigh with impaired bladder and bowel function; caused by compression of the spinal nerve roots.

Cauda equina

The bundle of nerves at the end of the spinal cord that supply the muscles of the legs, bladder, bowel and genitals.


The neck region of the spine containing the first seven vertebrae.


A condition of slow progression and continuing over a long period of time, opposite of acute.

Closed Fracture

A fracture where the bone is broken but is not visible; the integrity of the surrounding skin is not disrupted.

Club Feet

Turning of the heel inward with increased plantar flexion (the toe-down motion of the foot at the ankle).


The region of the spine below the sacrum; also known as the tailbone.

Comminuted Fracture

A fracture where the bone is broken into more than two pieces.

Compression Fracture

Bone that is compressed onto itself or other bone, resulting in fracture.


Knuckle-like, rounded areas at the joint.


Present at birth.

Contrast agent

A liquid (usually iodine or gadolinium) injected into the body to make certain tissues more visible during diagnostic imaging (angiography, CT, myelogram, MRI).


A bruise.

Cortical bone

Outer layer of dense, compact bone.


A hormone produced by the adrenal gland or synthetically. Regulates salt and water balance and has an anti-inflammatory effect.


Grating or grinding sound.

CT Scan (Computed Tomography Scan)

A specialized X-ray study that allows careful evaluation of the bone and spinal canal by producing cross-sectional images (referred to as slices) both horizontally and vertically.

Back to Top


Opening or removal of bone to relieve pressure and pinching of the spinal nerves.

Degenerative Disc Diseases

Gradual or rapid deterioration of the chemical composition and physical properties of the disc space.

Degenerative Joint Diseases (arthritis)

Deterioration of the articular cartilage that lines a joint, which results in narrowing of the joint space and pain; also known as osteoarthritis.

Disc (intervertebral disc)

A fibrocartilagenous cushion that connects any two adjacent vertebrae in the backbone or spine. The disk consists of an outer annulus fibrosus enclosing an inner nucleus pulposus.


A type of surgery in which herniated disc material is removed so that it no longer irritates and compresses the nerve root.

Discogenic pain

Pain arising from degenerative changes in the intervertebral discs.


A type of diagnostic x-ray that views intervertebral discs by inserting contrast agent into the disc space.


A test to determine whether the discs in the spine are the source of back pain by injecting contrast dye into the discs to identify which disc is the problem.


An injury to a joint where two or more of the bone ends forming that joint are forced out of their normal position.


Situated away from the center of the body.

Dorsal columns

White matter tracts located in the posterior portion of the spinal cord that transmit sensory information to the brain.

Dupuytren’s Contracture

A hereditary thickening of the tough tissue called fascia, which lies just below the skin of the palm resulting in flexion deformities of the finger.


Condition resulting from defective or faulty nutrition; broadly construed to include nourishment of tissue by all essential substances, including those normally manufactured by the body itself.

Back to Top


Presence of fluid within a joint.

EMG (electromyogram)

A test to evaluate nerve and muscle function.


Situated outside the thin, tough dural membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

Epidural Injection

Procedure where medication is injected into the epidural space.

Epidural steroid injection (ESI)

An injection of both a long-lasting steroid "cortisone" and an anesthetic numbing agent into the epidural space of the spine.


Remove by cutting away material.


Spur or bony overgrowth.

Back to Top

Facet joints

Joints located on the top and bottom of each vertebra that connect the vertebrae to each other and permit back motion.

Facet rhizotomy

A procedure that uses a radiofrequency current to deaden the nerves surrounding the facet joint and prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.


Excision of a facet.

Flat Foot

Condition where the arch of the foot flattens out.


Special type of radiograph that shows continuous motion of the structure, such as wrist motion.

Foramen (intervertebral foramen)

The opening or window between the vertebrae through which the nerve roots leave the spinal canal.


Surgical enlargement of the intervertebral foramen through which the spinal nerves pass from the spinal cord to the body. Performed to relieve pressure and impingement of the spinal nerves.


Disruption of the normal continuity of a bone; a break in a bone.

Frozen Shoulder

Condition characterized by restricted shoulder movement.


A procedure that permanently joins two or more bones to provide stability

Back to Top

Gamekeeper’s Thumb

Rupture of the ulnar collateral ligament.

Ganglion Cyst

Non-cancerous, fluid-filled cysts usually found on the back of the wrist.

Glenoid Labrum

Soft fibrous rim surrounding the glenoid fossa that deepens the socket and provides stability for the humeral head.


Inflammatory arthritis associated with deposition of urate in the joint.

Greater Trochanter

Broad, flat process at the upper end of the lateral surface of the femur to which several muscles are attached.

Greenstick Fracture

Bone that is fractured but not completely broken through; partially broken or bent. Occurs in children.

Back to Top

Hallux Valgus

See Bunion.


Permanent sideways bend of the middle toe joint.


A group of 3 muscles that run down the back of the thigh.

Heel Spur

A bone growth on the heel bone.


A blood clot.


To protrude through the wall of the cavity in which it is normally enclosed.

Herniated disc

A condition in which the gel-like center of an intervertebral disc ruptures through the tough disc wall irritating surrounding nerves and causing pain.


Extending a joint or limb beyond its normal limit.

Back to Top


Occurring without known cause

Image-guided surgery

Use of preoperative CT or MRI scans and a computer workstation to guide surgery.


Limitation of motion or fixation of a body part usually to promote healing.

Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder pain caused when the rotator cuff tendons rub against the roof of the shoulder, the acromion.


Cutting into.


A normal reaction to injury or disease, which results in swelling, pain, and stiffness.


Looseness, unsteadiness, or an inability to withstand normal physiologic loading without mechanical deformation.


Area between two vertebral bodies that contains the disc.

Intervertebral foramen

The hole through which the spinal nerve exits the spinal canal.


Difficult to control.


Lesion located within the covering of the spinal cord (the dura) but outside the substance of the spinal cord.

Intramedullary Nailing or Rodding

Procedure for the fixation of fractures in which a nail or rod is inserted into the intramedullary canal of the bone from one of its two ends.


Within the spinal cord, medulla oblongata, or the marrow cavity of a bone.

Intrathecal space

The space surrounding the spinal cord through which cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) flows; also called the subarachnoid space.

Back to Top


Where the ends of two or more bones meet.

Back to Top


A minimally invasive procedure used to treat vertebral compression fractures by inflating a balloon to restore bone height then injecting bone cement into the vertebral body.


Any forward-bending area or deformity in the spine.

Back to Top


Flat plates of bone originating from the pedicles of the vertebral body that form the posterior outer wall of the spinal canal and protect the spinal cord. Sometimes referred to as vertebral arch.


Surgical removal of the laminae or vertebral arch of the vertebra to remove pressure on the spinal cord.


Surgical cutting of the laminae or vertebral arch of the vertebra.

Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)

The ligament that gives stability to the outer knee.

Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)

Pain caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist backward away from the palm.


A general term that refers to any change in tissue, such as tumor malformation, blood, infection or scar tissue.


Strong band of white fibrous connective tissue that joins bones to other bones or to cartilage in the joint areas.


Inward curvature of the spine. An abnormal increase in the normal curvature of the lumbar spine is also called swayback.


The lower portion of the spine between the thoracic region and the sacrum, consisting of five vertebrae.

Back to Top

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A diagnostic test that uses a strong magnet to view tissues in your body and displays "slices."

Mallet Finger

Rupture of the extensor tendon at or near its insertion on the terminal phalanx caused by a sudden flexion force on the distal interphalangeal joint while the finger is actively extended, also known as Baseball Finger.


State of healing of the bone in which bones unites but in abnormal position and/or alignment.


The process of restoring a bone or joint to its proper alignment.

Marfan's syndrome

A genetic disorder in which patients develop skeletal defects in long bones, chest abnormalities, curvature of the spine, and circulatory defects.


Situated closer to the midline of the body.

Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL)

Ligament that gives stability to the inner knee. Meniscus – Soft-tissue structure that lines some joints and provides load distribution, shock absorption, and lubrication.


Three membranes (pia mater, arachnoid mater, and dura mater) that surround the brain and spinal cord.


Soft-tissue structure in the knee, providing load distribution, shock absorption, and lubrication.

Minimally invasive surgery

Use of technology (e.g., endoscopes, cameras, image-guidance systems, robotics) to operate through small, keyhole incisions in the body.

Morton’s Neuroma

A pinched nerve usually causing pain between the third and fourth toes.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.


Contractile connective tissues that affect movement; a component of nearly all organs and body systems.

Musculoskeletal System

The complex system involving the body’s muscles and skeleton; includes the joints, muscles, and nerves.


A broad term referring to spinal cord dysfunction of any cause. Some processes that lead to myelopathy include: transverse myelitis, injury, arthritis, vascular malformation, vertebral fracture from osteoporosis infection or malignancy, or syrinx an enlarged cyst within the spinal cord).

Back to Top

Nerve Root

The portion of a spinal nerve in close proximity to its origin from the spinal cord.


Pain along the course of a nerve.


Inflammation or irritation of a nerve.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)

Drugs used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. They mainly inhibit the body's ability to synthesize prostaglandins.


State of healing of the bone in which there is no healing.


A lack of sensation or the inability to feel anything when the skin is touched.

Back to Top


Condition where fluid escapes into the tissues from vascular or lymphatic spaces and causes local or generalized swelling.


An obstruction or closure of a passageway or vessel.

Olecranon Bursa

Bursa in the elbow.

Open Fracture

A compound fracture where the broken bone is visible; there is an open wound.

Open Reduction Internal Fixation (ORIF)

Procedure that involves incising the skin and soft tissue to repair a fracture under directly using metal plates and / or screws.

Orthopaedic (Orthopedic) Surgeon

The physician who diagnosis, treats, manages the rehabilitation process, and provides prevention protocols for patients who suffer from injury or disease in any of the components of the musculoskeletal system.

Orthopaedic (Orthopedic) Surgery

The medical specialty devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention of injuries and diseases of the body’s musculoskeletal system.


Any device applied to or around the body in the care of physical impairment or disability.


A medical professional who specializes in making custom molded braces and prostheses (artificial limbs).


Generally, a condition caused by wear and tear that causes inflammation of the joint resulting in pain, swelling, and stiffness.


The bone-building cells in bone.


The bone-removing, or resorption, cells in bone.


Inflammation of bone marrow, cortex, tissue, and periosteum due to infection.


A bone infection caused by bacteria.


Bony overgrowths that occur from stresses on bone, also called bone spurs. Often relates to osteoarthritis.


A depletion of calcium in the bones making them weak, brittle, and prone to fracture. Common in post menopausal women. Can be prevented early in life with calcium and regular exercise to stimulate bone metabolism.


A surgical procedure that changes the alignment of bone with or without removing a portion of that bone.

Back to Top

Paget's disease

Also known as osteitis deformans, a bone disease in which normal bone is destroyed and then replaced with thickened, weaker, softer bone. This weaker bone easily bends and deforms. Most often affects the pelvis, thoracic and lumbar spine, skull, femur, tibia, fibula, and clavicles.


To alleviate without curing.


Paralysis of both legs and lower body below the arms indicating an injury in the thoracic or lumbar spine.

Pars interarticularis

The narrow strip of bone between the superior and inferior facets of the vertebra.

Patella Tendinitis (also known as tendinopathy)

Condition that results in pain and inflammation of the patella tendon; common in jumping sports.

Patellofemoral Joint

Space between the patella and the femur.

Pathological Fracture

Fracture caused by a normal load on an abnormal bone, which is often weakened by tumor, infection, or metabolic bone disease.

Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)

The ligament located in the center of the knees that controls backward movement of the tibia (shin bone.)


The thin, bony bridge that connects the vertebral body with the outer processes.


By way of the skin. (e.g., injection).


Individual bones that make up the fingers and toes.


Therapeutic application of ultrasound with a topical drug, most commonly corticosteroid.


The treatment consisting of exercising specific parts of the body, such as legs, arms, hands, or neck in an effort to strengthen, repair range of motion, relearn movement and/or rehabilitate the musculoskeletal system to improve function.

Plantar Fasciitis

Irritation of the plantar facia – the long band of connecting tissue running from the heel to the ball of the foot.


Located behind a structure, such as relating to the back side of the human body.

Posterior longitudinal ligament (PLL)

A strong fibrous ligament that courses along the posterior surface of the vertebral bodies within the spinal canal from the base of the skull to the sacrum.


From the back.


Behind and to one side.


Situated closer to the trunk of the body.

Back to Top


Paralysis of both legs and arms indicating an injury to the cervical spine.

Back to Top

R.I.C.E. Treatment

The method of treatment of an acute injury using “Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.”


High-energy rays or particle streams used to treat disease.


Refers to any disease affecting the spinal nerve roots. Also used to describe pain along the sciatic nerve that radiates down the leg.


A doctor who specializes in reading X-rays and other diagnostic scans.

Radiology department

Rooms designated for examining and imaging the body by use of x-rays or magnetic fields.

Range of Motion (ROM)

Amount of movement in a joint.


The return of symptoms or the disease itself.


An automatic or involuntary reaction to a stimulus.


The surgical removal of part of a structure, such as bone.

Rotator Cuff

Area of the shoulder that is comprised of four muscles and their tendons which combine to form a cuff over the head of the humerus.

Rotator Cuff Tear

Tear of the one or more of the rotator cuff tendons.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis (also known as tendinopathy)

Inflammation of the rotator cuff and associated bursal sac.

Back to Top


The five fused vertebrae at the base of the spine that provide attachment for the iliac (hip) bones and protect the pelvic organs.

Sciatic nerve

Nerve located in the back of the leg which supplies the muscles of the back of the knee and lower leg and sensation to the back of the thigh, part of the lower leg, and the sole of the foot.


Pain that courses along the sciatic nerve in the buttocks and down the legs. Usually caused by compression of the 5th lumbar or 1st sacral spinal nerves.


Sideways curvature of the spine; a lateral and rotational deviation of the spine.

Shin Splints

Refers to pain in the shins - the front lower legs. Often caused by prolonged running on hard surfaces, or stop-start sports.

SLAP Lesion

An injury to the biceps tendon and/or superior labrum. (Superior Labral, Anterior to Posterior)

Spinal canal

The hollow space within the bony vertebrae of the spine through which the spinal cord passes.

Spinal Column

Flexible bone column extending from the base of the skull to the tailbone, and is made up of 33 bones known as vertebrae. (vertebral column, spine, backbone)

Spinal Cord

Extension of the brain composed of virtually all the nerves carrying messages between the brain and the rest of the body. It lies inside of and is protected by the vertebrae and the spinal column.

Spinal Decompression

A procedure carried out to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. This may be accomplished by removing some bone from the vertebra or by removing the disc.

Spinal instability

Abnormal movement between two vertebrae that can cause pain or damage the spinal cord and nerves.

Spinal shock

Immediately following spinal cord injury there is an absence of movement, sensation, and reflexes below the level of the lesion. It can last for hours to weeks and then may get better.

Spinal stenosis

The narrowing of the spinal canal and nerve-root canal along with the enlargement of the facet joints.


Inflammation of vertebrae.


Displacement of a vertebral body on the one below.


When one vertebra slips forward on another, usually at the fifth lumbar vertebra and sacrum.


A spinal condition resulting from degeneration of the intervertebral discs causing narrowing of the disc space and the presence of bone spurs. Also called degenerative disc disease.

Sports Medicine

The practice of medicine that physicians and other health professionals provide to athletes.


A partial or complete tear of a ligament.


Reduction in the diameter of the spinal canal due to new bone formation which may result in pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.


A precise method for locating deep brain structures by the use of 3-dimensional coordinates.


A large group of chemical substances related in structure to one another and each containing the same chemical backbone. Many hormones, body constituents, and drugs are steroids. Examples: drugs used to relieve swelling and inflammation such as prednisone, vitamin D, and the sex steroids such as testosterone.


Neurapraxia (temporary loss of neural function) from a strength injury to the brachial plexus, most commonly seen in football players; also called a Burner.


A partial or complete tear of a muscle or tendon.

Stress fracture

A bone injury caused by overuse.

Subarachnoid space

The space between the pia and arachnoid mater of the brain and spinal cord that contains cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Synovial Fluid

A fluid that is found in joints and is released by the synovial membrane. It acts as a lubricant for joints and tendons.


Condition characterized by inflammation of the synovial lining.


A fibrous envelope that procedures a fluid to help reduce friction and wear in a joint.

Back to Top


Extension of muscle into a firm, fibrous cord that attaches into a bone or other firm structure.


Inflammation or irritation of any tendon, the thick fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone. The condition causes pain and tenderness just outside a joint. Most common around shoulders, elbows, wrists and heels.

Tennis Elbow

Pain caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist backward away from the palm.


The 12 vertebra located between the cervical and lumbar vertebra.


A strong, low-density, highly corrosion-resistant metal alloy.


The technique of using rotating X-rays to capture an image at a particular depth in the body, bringing those structures into sharp focus while blurring structures at other depths.

Total Joint Replacement

Replacement of a joint involving an internal prosthesis by removing the diseased joint and replacing it with metal or plastic components.


A method for relieving pressure on the spine by using a system of weights and pulleys.

Trigger Finger

Catching or locking of a finger.


Prominence on a bone where tendon attaches.

Turf Toe

A hyper-extension injury of the first metatarsophalangeal joint associated with athletic activity of hard surfaces.

Back to Top


A diagnostic procedure that utilized high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal structures. Can also be used as a form of medical treatment to treat joint pain

Back to Top

Vagus nerve

A cranial nerve that carries signals from the brainstem through organs in the neck, chest, and abdomen.

Vertebra (plural vertebrae)

One of 33 bones that form the spinal column, they are divided into 7 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral, and 4 coccygeal. Only the top 24 bones are moveable.

Vertebral body compression fracture (VCF)

A break in the vertebral body of the spine that causes it to collapse and produce a wedge-shaped deformity.


A minimally invasive procedure used to treat vertebral compression fractures by injecting bone cement into the vertebral body; similar to kyphoplasty but does not restore vertebral height.

Back to Top


A lack or reduction of strength in one or more muscles.

Back to Top


A diagnostic test, which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones and organs on film.