Spinal Glossary: S

  • sacrum: The triangular-shaped bone made up of five fused vertebrae near the very end of the spine.
  • sciatica: Pain, numbness, tingling in the distribution of the sciatic nerve, which travels from deep in the buttock down to the foot.
  • scoliosis: Abnormal sideways curvature of the spine, affecting about 20 million Americans. The most common type, idiopathic, occurs most frequently in adolescent girls, and its origin is unknown.
  • SI (Sacroiliac): A pair of joints within the pelvis between the sacrum and the ilium bones.
  • SPECT scan: A Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography (SPECT) scan is a nuclear imaging test that allows a technician or physician to analyze the function of internal organs.
  • spina bifida occulta: One of the mildest forms of spina bifida, in which the outer parts of some vertebrae are not completely closed; no spinal cord protrusion is present because the split in the vertebra is relatively small. Known as occulta (Latin for “hidden”) because no opening of the skin is evident, and the condition typically is asymptomatic.
  • spinal cord stimulation (SCS): A method of treatment in which a surgically implanted pulse generator sends electrical current through the spine in order to interfere with nerve impulses that cause chronic pain.
  • spinal stenosis (SS): Local, segmental or generalized narrowing of the central spinal canal by bone or soft tissue elements.
  • spondylolisthesis, degenerative: Slippage of one vertebra over another as a result of an age-related degenerative condition, such as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease.
  • spondylolisthesis, isthmic: Slippage of one vertebra over another as a result of spinal fracture; could be related to traumatic injury or a result of repetitive stress.
  • spondylolysis: A fracture (crack) in the pars interarticularis, a portion of bone where the vertebral body and the posterior elements protecting the nerve roots are joined. It appears most frequently in adolescent athletes, particularly in participants in sports that require repeated hyperextension of the lower back, such as rowing and gymnastics.
  • Sx: Symptoms: Medical shorthand for “symptoms.”
  • Slipped Disc: A slipped or herniated disc occurs when the tough, fibrous outer wall of an intervertebral disc tears and allows the disc’s nucleus material to extrude into the spinal canal.
  • Spondylolisthesis: The slippage of a vertebra forward over another vertebra
  • Stenosis: Occurs when one of the neural passageways associated with the spine – especially the spinal canal and the foramina – become constricted because of an anatomical abnormality.
  • spinal narrowing: A reduction in the size of the spinal canal, resulting in less space available for the spinal cord and associated nerve roots; also known as spinal stenosis.
  • spinal injections: Direct injections of anesthetic and steroidal medications into or near spinal nerve roots, or the epidural space surrounding the spinal cord. Spinal injections are typically suggested to treat moderate to severe neck and back pain and to reduce inflammation.
  • selective nerve root block: A type of spinal injection during which numbing anesthetic and anti-inflammatory steroidal medications are injected into or near a pinched spinal nerve root.
  • spinal arthritis: Occurs when the protective cartilage lining of the facet joints in the spine wears down over time, which can cause pain and other symptoms.
  • spinal canal: The passageway, encased by vertebrae, through which the spinal cord passes.
  • spinal column: The column of vertebrae, intervertebral discs, ligaments, tendons, joints, fluid, nerves and other tissue that runs down the center of the back and serves as skeletal support for the upper body while protecting the spinal cord.
  • spinal cord: A tubular bundle of nerve fibers that runs from the base of the skull to the lower back and is responsible for transmitting sensory and motor signals between the body’s extremities and the brain. Along with the brain, it is a part of the central nervous system.
  • spinal instrumentation: The rods, plates, screws, hooks, braided cable, mesh cages and other metal or plastic implants that stabilize vertebral segments during spinal fusion and/or disc replacement surgery.
  • spondylitis: A degenerative disease that produces inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae, as well as the joints between the spine and the pelvis; also known as ankylosing spondylitis.
  • spondylosis: A general term used to refer to age-related degeneration of the anatomical components of the spine; commonly used interchangeably with the term spinal arthritis.
  • stretching: The act of extending the muscles of the legs, neck, back, shoulders and arms in preparation for exercise; also used to combat neck and back pain by improving flexibility of muscles and ligaments, reducing stress on joints and improving blood flow.
  • sprains and back pain: Sprains can occur in the spine when a spinal ligament is stretched beyond its normal capacity or torn. A sprain should not be confused with a strain, which affects muscles and tendons.
  • stress and back pain: Stress and back pain often go hand in hand. Stress can affect a person’s circulation, muscle tenseness, hormone levels and much more, any or all of which can play a role in neck or back pain.
  • sports injuries: Sports injuries occur when an individual is participating in sports or any type of athletic activity. Sports injuries can happen suddenly or they may develop over time due to prolonged overexertion.