Spinal Glossary: D

  • DBM (demineralized bone matrix): A bone grafting option that is often used during spine fusion surgery.
  • DC (Doctor of Chiropractic): An academic degree that is earned by chiropractic professionals. A chiropractor is a medical professional who specializes in mechanical disorders within the musculoskeletal system. Graduates of chiropractic schools receive their degree in Doctor of Chiropractic but it is important to differentiate this from a medical physician.
  • decompression: Treatment designed to alleviate pressure on a nerve, nerve root or the spinal cord itself. Decompression treatments vary in relative invasiveness, but are all intended to provide relief from pain and other symptoms.
  • degenerative disc disease (DDD): Refers to the gradual deterioration of one or more of the intervertebral discs that cushion and support the bones of the spine. Degenerative disc disease is a common result of the aging process but can be exacerbated by injury or other outside influences.
  • disc: Intervertebral discs are thick pads that cushion the spine and prevent adjacent vertebrae from grinding together in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine segments. Discs are comprised of a tough fibrous wall (annulus fibrosus) and a gel-like center (nucleus pulposus).
  • discectomy: The surgical removal of a herniated intervertebral disc in whole or in part.
  • discitis: The inflammation of an intervertebral disc commonly caused by infection.
  • discography: A diagnostic tool in which contrast dye is injected into the nucleus of an intervertebral disc. Discographic images are generated using a fluoroscope and computed tomography (CT) scanning. During the injection, the physician performing the procedure asks the patient if the injection generates pain similar to his/her “usual” pain.
  • DJD (degenerative joint disease): Also known as osteoarthritis; this is the most common disorder of the joints, especially among people who are middle-aged or older. It can affect any joint in the body, including the fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, vertebral joints, hips, knees, ankles and more. It can produce swelling, pain, stiffness or muscle weakness around arthritic joints.
  • D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine): A licensed practitioner of osteopathic medicine, which uses a combination of modern medicine (such as prescription drugs, surgery and other technology) and hands-on musculoskeletal manipulation. There are approximately 67,000 fully licensed osteopathic physicians in the United States. A D.O. works in partnership with a patient to achieve wellness by focusing on health education and the prevention of injury and disease.
  • DRG (dorsal root ganglion): A nodule adjacent to the dorsal root containing spinal nerve cells. The dorsal nerve root is an afferent, or sensory, nerve. This means it carries neural signals to the central nervous system (spinal cord, brain) from the peripheral nervous system.
  • Dx: In medical shorthand, the symbol for “diagnosis.” Diagnosis of back pain typically begins with answering a physician’s questions, followed by a physical exam, neurological evaluation, internal imaging (X-ray, MRI, CT scan) and other medical tests.
  • degenerative joint disease: Also known as osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease is a condition that leads to the degradation of the joints and can cause significant pain and diminished movement at the joint. This condition is frequently experienced in the vertebral facet joints.
  • Degenerative Spine: Characterized by the deterioration of cartilaginous areas of the back. Degenerative disc disease and facet disease are both degenerative spine disorders.
  • Disc Protrusion: A stage of intervertebral disc degeneration during which the disc bulges outside of its normal circumference. A disc protrusion is often defined as a bulge that involves 180 degrees or less of the disc's circumference.
  • Disc Herniation: Occurs when the gelatin-like nucleus of an intervertebral disc extrudes through a tear or crack in the fibrous disc wall and seeps into the spinal canal.
  • disc resorption: Disc resorption occurs when a disc herniates and the body recognizes extruded disc material in a place it shouldn't be. The body then releases chemicals that break down and absorb the gel-like material.
  • depression: A medical condition that describes a prolonged feeling of sadness, melancholy, disappointment and pessimism that interferes with daily life. There is no concrete definition of depression because different people experience it differently, but this illness is serious and usually requires treatment to overcome.
  • decompression surgery: A procedure aimed at releasing neural compression caused by anatomical abnormalities in the spine; a decompression surgery may involve the removal of bone or tissue to create more room for spinal nerves.
  • dermatome map: A diagram that identifies dermatomes, or areas of skin that are innervated by a single nerve, and their corresponding nerve roots along the length of the spinal column.
  • dermatomes: Areas of skin primarily innervated by a single spinal nerve.
  • disc sequestration: A condition that involves the separation of inner nuclear material (nucleus fibrosus) from the intervertebral disc.
  • discogenic: A term used to refer to pain that is caused by an abnormality in one or more intervertebral discs.
  • dura mater: One of three layers that make up the meninges, which is a protective membrane system that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
  • discogenic back pain: Pain caused by a condition related to the intervertebral discs of the spine. Common disc abnormalities include bulging discs and herniated discs.