Spinal Glossary: C

  • C#: The letter “C” followed by a number is a way to refer to the seven vertebrae of the cervical spine, or neck. For instance, a herniated disc might occur between the C3 and C4 vertebrae.
  • C-collar: A rigid brace, also called a cervical collar, which supports the head and neck. It provides stabilization of the C1-C7 vertebrae, which may be needed after a traumatic accident or after an invasive neck surgery.
  • C-spine: Refers to the cervical spine, or neck. The cervical spine is composed of seven vertebrae, labeled C1 to C7.
  • cauda equina: A bundle of nerve roots in the lumbar spine that branch off the end of the spinal cord and extend through the lower extremities, bowel and bladder.
  • cauda equina syndrome (CES): An emergency condition caused by the compression of the nerve bundle in the lower part of the spinal canal, the cauda equina. Symptoms include pain, paralysis and incontinence; the condition requires immediate medical attention.
  • cervical: A term used to refer to the neck. The cervical region of the spine is composed of seven vertebrae that allow the head and neck to move together.
  • chronic: Used in the medical field to describe a persistent medical condition that usually lasts more than three months.
  • claudication: A medical term that describes difficulty walking. Claudication can often be traced to nerve compression in the spine and may range in severity from mild to extreme.
  • CNS: The central nervous system (CNS) is composed of the brain and spine, and is responsible for sending and receiving sensory signals throughout the body.
  • coccyx: Known colloquially as the "tailbone," the coccyx is a vestigial set of bones that is comprised of three to five individual vertebrae that are fused together. The coccyx is attached to and articulates with the sacrum in the pelvis.
  • corticosteroids: Oral steroids that are a pain medication for patients who need immediate pain relief. These medications are most commonly prescribed to patients dealing with arthritic pain, allergic reactions, chronic back pain and other similar conditions.
  • COX-2 inhibitor: Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors are a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that target the cyclooxygenase enzyme, which is responsible for muscle inflammation. COX-2 inhibitors are often recommended for patients with arthritic pain or pain stemming from degenerative joint conditions.
  • CSF (cerebrospinal fluid): A clear fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain and protects the central nervous system against sudden shock.
  • CT (computerized tomography): A CT scan uses X-ray technology to study the inner workings of the body. This diagnostic imagery tool is used by medical professionals to generate an image of a specific part of the body from a series of two-dimensional images taken around an axis.
  • Cervical Radiculopathy: “Radiculopathy” is the general term for the symptoms that arise when there is improper or incomplete function of one or more spinal nerve roots. The term "cervical" refers to the portion of the spine that runs through the neck.
  • Central Canal Stenosis: Central canal stenosis is the narrowing, or constriction, of the spinal canal.
  • canal stenosis: A narrowing of the spinal canal, caused when one or more anatomical elements of the spine becomes inflamed or damaged, or shifts out of place.
  • chronic pain: This term describes pain that lasts longer than three months.
  • chemonucleolysis: A minimally invasive treatment for patients experiencing degenerative disc conditions in the neck or back. During this procedure, a medical professional carefully injects chymopapain into the affected disc to reduce swelling, alleviate nerve compression and reduce symptoms.
  • chiropractor: A chiropractor is a health care professional who is concerned with diagnosis and treatment of the musculoskeletal system. Chiropractic therapy is particularly common for patients who have neck or back pain, although chiropractic is considered to be outside of mainstream medicine.
  • collapsed disc: A collapsed intervertebral disc is a degenerative spine condition that occurs as a result of an injury or regular wear and tear. This condition is relatively common as an individual grows older, and is actually asymptomatic unless the disc or disc material comes into contact with a nerve root or the spinal cord itself.
  • cartilage in the spine: Soft, flexible tissue that lines the joints of the spine (called facet joints); cartilage is also an integral part of the cushioning discs located in between the vertebrae.
  • Central Nervous System: Consists of the brain and spinal cord, which control the motor and sensory signals that are sent throughout the body; works in conjunction with the peripheral nervous system.
  • cerebrospinal fluid: Protective fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord; helps keep nerve tissue healthy by removing waste.
  • corpectomy: A spinal surgery in which the vertebral body is removed with the aim of releasing neural compression.
  • coccydynia: The medical term used to describe pain in or around the coccyx in the tailbone.