Spine & Sports Glossary - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Spine & Sports Glossary

Defining Pain – Persistent Musculoskeletal Pain comes from the central nervous system, or the spinal cord and brain. The spinal cord and brain are responsible for reading the messages from our tissues (muscle, ligament, bone, tendon, cartilage, peripheral nerve, etc.) and understanding the messages. Pain referred from the central nervous system is not from the tissues where the pain is felt, but from the tissues where the message is read and understood.

Flare-Up Pain – A flare-up is defined as an increased level of pain over your baseline, which lasts for more than a day. Not everyone will have flare-up pain during their healing. However, if you do, it could mean a variety of things.

  • Poor positioning during daily activities
  • More activity than you were ready for
  • Awkward sleeping positions

It is important to know that this is a normal part of the recovery process. It is important to have a strategy to manage a flare-up. This flare-up does not create any damage to your body, but can slow the healing process.

The Kinetic Chain – A grouping of body parts that are inter-linked. Just as links of a chain keep it connected and working, body parts affect other body parts. For example, forces in the foot and ankle can affect body parts such as the knees, the hips and the lower back. It is sometimes necessary to "to loosen up the rusty links in the chain" to get your body moving properly.

Functional Exercise – Rehabilitative exercises that mimic the active motions that a person would need to make in their actual activity or sports. We provide exercises that integrate multiple muscles because muscles never operate alone.

Functional/Mechanical Diagnosis – A diagnosis that goes beyond the results of an MRI or an X-ray to identify biomechanical problems that contribute to  pain. A thorough physical examination with a physiatrist examines how all parts of the body are affected by the pain to identify possible causes.

Neurodynamics – Nerves in the body can "kink and knot," causing discomfort and pain in areas like the spine and the hips. Neurodynamic testing is part of a physical exam during which nerve tension and pain in parts of the body are assessed. This diagnosis helps create a patient's individualized exercise program.

Manual Therapy – Hands-on treatment that is used to restore motion to the joints of the body. This type of therapy includes care from physical therapists, chiropractors and other rehabilitation team members.

Diagnostic Tests

  • EMG – A test used to assess the function of muscles and nerves using electrical impulses and observing the electrical responses from the muscles.
  • MRI – Using magnetic energy, an MRI takes pictures of soft tissues, tendons, ligaments and nerves.
  • X-Ray – A picture of the bones utilizing radioactive energy.
  • Ultrasound – The use of sound energy to visualize soft tissues, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves.

Spinal Injection Procedures – Using guidance from an X-ray, a needle is inserted into specific locations of the spine and joints to administer medications and treat pain.

Stabilization Exercise – Exercises intended to strengthen muscles that support the spine. These muscles include the abdominals, the gluteals, back, pelvic floor and diaphragm muscles.

Connective Tissue Healing Repairs – Soft tissues in the body go through several phases of healing. The exercises that patients are prescribed take into account these phases of healing and recovery that a patient is in.

Rehabilitation Team – Physiatrist, chiropractor, physical therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapy assistant, psychologist and nurse.