The term ligamentum flavum hypertrophy certainly is a mouthful, a verbal amalgam of Latin- and Greek-based words rarely uttered outside of a medical clinic or read someplace other than a spine-focused medical website or textbook. In essence, it means the enlargement of a particular kind of connective tissue within the spine. For the layperson to fully understand the term, though, it’s best to break down its components one at a time.
It’s All Greek (and Latin) to Me
Start with the Latin-based word ligamentum, which is derived from the Latin ligare (to bind or tie). As you might have guessed, it’s a fancy way to say “ligament,” which is defined as a tough band of tissue that connects two bones. In this case, the ligament in question helps connect the vertebrae of the spine. It also provides stability for proper posture and spinal movement, especially flexion. The word flavum is derived from the Latin flavus, or yellow, which is the color the ligamentum flavum. Hypertrophy comes from two Greek words – hyper, meaning oversized; and trophe, meaning nourishment or food.
The Medical Application
What ligamentum flavum hypertrophy means to you – especially if you are middle-aged or older – is potential back or neck pain. As we age, the anatomical components of the spine are vulnerable to degenerative conditions that can lead to painful spinal nerve compression. As stress increases on the ligamenta flava (the plural of ligamentum flavum), their cells become inflamed (hypertrophy) and begin to ossify, or thicken. This increase in size and decrease in elasticity occasionally combine to reduce the area available for nerve roots and the spinal cord to pass (spinal stenosis). This can happen at any level of the spine, but is most commonly experienced in the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) regions. It can be treated with anti-inflammatory medicine, but occasionally surgery may be recommended. If so, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how an endoscopically performed laminotomy, one of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures, may be able to help you find relief from back or neck pain.