Medical/Neurosurgical Glossary
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Babinski Reflex, Babinski Sign – A reflex where stroking the bottom of the foot will cause the toes to go down in a normal person and up in an infant or in an adult with a spinal cord injury.

Backbone – The flexible column of bones extending from the base of the skull to the tailbone. It is made up of 33 vertebrae. The first 24 vertebrae are separated by discs, known as intervertebral discs, and bound together by ligaments and muscles. Five vertebrae are fused together to form the sacrum and 4 vertebrae are fused together to form the coccyx. The spine is also referred to as the vertebral column, the spinal column, or the simply the spine.

Baker Cyst – This fluid filled cystic structure develops behind the knee in patients who perform repetitive bending.  It is an outpouching of the synovial space in the knee joint.

Balance – A biological system that enables people to sense where their bodies are and to maintain a desired position.   Normal balance depends on information from the labyrinth of the inner ear, and from other senses such as sight and touch.   

Balance Disorder – A disruption of the function of the labyrinth of the inner ear results in problems in maintaining position.  It is frequently associated with dizziness, vertigo and frequent falls.

Barge analysis – A contemporary technique, developed by a chiropractor, used to locate alleged shifting of a disk nucleus said to cause tortipelvis/torticollis, spinal distortions, or curvatures. Rotation of a spinous process toward the wide side of a disk space on the concave side of a spinal curve (the opposite of what is normally seen) is thought to indicate that the disk is improperly centered.

Basal Ganglia – These are collections of brain cells which are deep within the brain.  They are responsible for controlling basic bodily functions.

Battle Sign – This is a bruise or ecchymosis over the mastoid process, the bony bump behind the ear.  It occurs in patients with head injuries who have suffered a skull fracture.

Beta Blocker – A group of blood pressure type medications which are also is used to treat some kinds of pain and some drug withdrawal problems.  The group includes Inderal or propranolol.  All limit the activity of a hormone called epinephrine that increases blood pressure.

Bilateral – Affecting both sides of the body or symmetric.

Bio-Energetic Synchronization Technique (B.E.S.T.) - A method that involves measuring leg length to determine whether "imbalances" exist in the body's electromagnetic field. The chiropractor allegedly corrects these imbalances by placing his hands on certain "contact points" to transfer electromagnetic energy to the patient.

Bio-kinetics – A new technique in which a special adjustment with an instrument is made between the atlas and the skull to relieve dozens of ailments ranging from asthma to psoriasis. This cure-all spinal adjustment corrects subluxations and "reconstructs the spine."

Biologic Response Modifiers – These are substances that boost the body’s immune system and improve its ability to fight cancer and other diseases.  Interferon is one example.

Body Mass Index (BMI) – This is a number, calculated by using height and weight measurements, that gives a general indication of whether or one’s weight is within the healthy range.

Blair upper cervical technique – A technique that concentrates upon the correction of vertebral misalignments at the top of the neck as a method of removing nerve interference in the spine. A "Blair head clamp" is used to position the head for cervical x-ray examination.

Blood-brain barrier (BBB) – The protective membrane that separates circulating blood from brain cells is the protects the sensitive cells of the brain from a variety of toxins.

Bone – The hard tissue that provides structural support to the body. It is composed of hydroxyapatite crystals and collagen. Individual bones are classed as long (arm and leg bones), short (hand bones for example), or flat (like the skull and pelvis).

Bone Density Test -- A test that measures the strength and calcium density of bones.  It is often used to determine the risk of developing osteoporosis or a fracture.

Bone Graft – This is the pieces of bone which are used for surgical fusion. Bone can be removed from one part of the body to be used in another area.  Bone graft can come from a donor.  Artificial bone graft can be manufactured. 

Bone Marrow – The tissue contained within the internal cavities of the bones. This tissue produces the red and white blood cells.

Bone Plate – A metal device that used to secure bones or bone fragments so that they can heal.  This is similar to the mending plates which are available from hardware stores.

Bone Screw – This is a threaded metal screw that is inserted into bone, usually with a plate.

Brachial Plexus – This refers to collection nerves that branch from the spinal cord in the neck area and reach down into each arm. The brachial plexus is at the base of the neck, next to the shoulder, and includes all of the nerves that serve the arms and hands. Accidents and birth related injuries can damage the brachial plexus.

Brady – This Latin prefix that means slow is used with many other medical terms.  This is the opposite of Tachy-.

Bradycardia – A slowness of the heartbeat.

Bradykinesia – A slowness of movement.

Brown-Sιquard Syndrome – A type of spinal cord injury where one half of the spinal cord is damaged and which causes weakness on one side of the body and numbness on the opposite side.


If you are aware of any useful spine and neuromusculoskeletal terms which are not included in this list, or if you have suggestions for better definitions,  your help would be greatly appreciated.  Please send me any upgrades and I will update the web site appropriately.  Click here to send a comment.






The information in this site briefly describes issues related to medical treatments, and has been licensed by from Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc., who is solely responsible for said content.  This web site is not a substitute for good medical care or for a consultation with a spine specialist. It should not be used to plan your treatment. The well considered advice of a specialist who has personally examined you is always superior to even the best internet pages.


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Last modified: 07/27/08