Man holding his back in pain

Terms to Help You Understand Musculoskeletal Pain

When you suffer an accidental injury or are troubled by musculoskeletal pain caused by a disease condition, knowing the medical terms that define your pain can give you a sense of control. This blog is designed to give you some familiarity with words that you may know, but can’t pinpoint the meaning of. We know from long experience that taking the mystery/ambiguity out of medical terminology can empower patients and restore a feeling of confidence and hope.

Let’s start with the word physiatrist.” A physiatrist is a doctor who specializes in pain management and restoration of function. At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our doctors are all physiatrists — not to be confused with psychiatrists (a mistake often made by Google). The physiatrists at any of our five offices on Long Island will provide you with responsive, effective, compassionate care. Contact us soon. In the meantime, check out some of the other words that pertain to our field of healthcare.

Injuries and Disease Conditions


There are a great many types of arthritis, all painful, but the most common are:

  • Osteoarthritis which results in the erosion of cartilage (the tissue that serves as a cushion between bones at the joints) due to the wear and tear of aging.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the membrane that encases and protects the joints. 


Bursitis is a painful inflammation of the small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion bones, tendons, and muscles adjacent to the joints. It most commonly occurs in the shoulder, elbow, and hip.

Herniated Discs

Vertebral discs are gel-like cushions between the bones of the back. When they bulge and slip out of their normal position, putting pressure on adjacent nerves, they are said to herniate.


Sprains are stretches or tears in ligaments, the fibrous band of tissue that connects bone to bone. 


Strains are stretches or tears of tendons, and muscle tissue that links muscle to bone.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the space between the spinal cord and the bones of the spinal column. It often results in painful pressure on the spinal nerves. 

Diagnostic Imaging

There are several types of diagnostic imaging, including X-rays and MRI, CT, and ultrasound scans:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans use a magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues of the body.
  • CT  (computerized tomography) scans use X-ray images taken from various angles to create cross-sectional images of the body, providing much more detailed views of bones and soft tissues than ordinary X-rays can.
  • Ultrasound scans use high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures within the body for diagnostic purposes. 

All three methods of diagnostic imagings assist in diagnosing both injuries and disease conditions.

EMG (Electromyography) Studies

EMG studies help to evaluate the function of muscles and the nerve cells that control them by translating electrical signals into numerical values and graphs. EMG studies can reveal muscle or nerve dysfunction as well as problems with nerve-to-muscle signal transmission.



Acupuncture, a major component of traditional Chinese medicine, involves the insertion of very thin needles through the skin at strategic points on the body to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and promote healing by balancing the flow of the energy, known as Qi, through the body.

PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field) Therapy

PEMF uses powerful, pulsing energy waves to promote healing by alleviating pain, reducing inflammation, improving circulation and muscle function, and oxygenating tissue.

PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) Therapy

PRP uses a concentration of the patients’ own platelets (the blood cells that help the blood to clot) to enrich their blood. The enriched blood when reintroduced into the bloodstream, is a potent catalyst to promote accelerated healing of spinal and musculoskeletal tissues.

Spinal Epidural Injections

Epidural injections administer a combination of an anesthetic and a steroid into the epidural space around the spinal nerve to provide pain relief by reducing inflammation. These injections are administered under fluoroscopic guidance.

Contact Our Experienced Musculoskeletal Pain Doctors Today

Though by no means all-inclusive, hopefully, this short dictionary will provide you with a better understanding of some of the reasons patients come to us and some of the ways our highly skilled professionals diagnose and treat them. Contact us to learn more about the healing process and the benefits of seeking care at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine.