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A Glossary of all Things Orthopedic

Become more informed about your care and check out our comprehensive glossary of common orthopedic terms.


A tendon connecting the calf muscle to the heel bone.

Arthroscopic surgery

A minimally invasive surgical procedure in which a device called an arthroscope is inserted into the joint through one or more small incisions to examine and/or treat damage to the interior of the joint.


The tough tissue that covers the ends of the bones at the joints. In arthritis, the cartilage in the joints degrades, causing limited movement and pain.


Pertaining to the upper spine or neck.

Cervical spine

The top seven vertebrae of the spine, beginning at the base of the skull and extending down into the neck.

Compression fracture

When the normal vertebral body of the spine is squashed, or compressed, to a smaller height.

Disc fusion

A conventional surgical technique in which one or more of the spine’s vertebrae are joined together or “fused” so that motion no longer occurs between them.


A fibrous membrane covering, supporting and separating muscles, as well as uniting the skin with underlying tissue.


An increase in the size of a body organ or tissue due to enlargement of its component cells rather than tumor formation.


Between the vertebrae – the bones that make up the spine.


The bone that covers the back of the spinal canal.


Tissue that connects bone to bone.


Pertaining to the lower back.


A C-shaped piece of cartilage that serves as a shock-absorption system, helps lubricate the joint and limits the ability to flex and extend the joint.


Surgery requiring an operating microscope.

Minimally invasive

A type of surgery – sometimes called laparoscopic surgery – performed through small incisions.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

A medical imaging technique most commonly used in radiology to visualize the internal structure and function of the body.


Abbreviation for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, which is a prescription or over-the-counter medication taken for relief of pain and inflammation. Examples of over-the-counter NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen and naprosyn.


An orthopedic appliance designed to support, straighten or improve the functioning of a body part.

Physician assistant

An advanced practice clinician licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a licensed physician.

Reconstructive surgery

Surgery to restore the form and function of the body. Examples of reconstructive orthopedic surgery are procedures to rebuild the hip and other joints and repair tendons, such as those in the shoulder’s rotator cuff.

Rotator cuff

The group of muscles and their tendons that act to stabilize the shoulder.

Spinal stenosis

A narrowing of the spinal canal, often the result of a degenerative condition that develops in people over age 50.

Spinous process

A slender projection from the back of a spinal vertebra to which muscles and ligaments are attached.


A bone spur or osteophyte is an outgrowth or ridge that forms on a bone.


A tough band of fibrous connective tissue that usually connects muscle to bone and is capable of withstanding tension. Also called sinew.

Can’t find what you’re looking for in the glossary above? Try the extended glossary from