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Glossary - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

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accessory movement - joint movements that cannot be performed voluntarily or in isolation by the patient.

Achilles tendonitis - Inflammation of the Achilles tendon.

activities of daily living (ADLs) - personal care activities necessary for everyday living, such as eating, bathing, grooming, dressing, and toileting; a term often used by healthcare professionals to assess the need and/or type of care a person may require.

akinesia - no movement.

amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) - a terminal neurological disorder characterized by progressive degeneration of motor cells in the spinal cord and brain. It is often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's disease."

aneurysm - a weakened, pouched area on the wall of an artery.

ankle sprain - overstretched lateral (outside) ligament of the ankle joint.

arrhythmia - an abnormal heart rhythm.

arthralgia - pain in a joint, usually due to arthritis or arthropathy.

arthritis - inflammation of a joint, usually accompanied by pain, swelling, and sometimes change in structure.

arthroscopy - a minimally-invasive diagnostic and treatment procedure used for conditions of a joint. This procedure uses a small, lighted, optic tube (arthroscope) which is inserted into the joint through a small incision in the joint. Images of the inside of the joint are projected onto a screen; used to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joint; to detect bone diseases and tumors; to determine the cause of bone pain and inflammation.

articular cartilage - covers the ends of bones and allows the distribution of compressive loads over the cross section of bones; provides frictionless and wear-resistant surface for joint movement.

assistive device - a tool that assists a person with a disability to complete a task (such as a reacher, grabber, special eating utensil, or button-hooker).

atrophy - wasting, shrinkage of muscle tissue or nerve tissue.

avascular necrosis - death of tissue due to depletion of blood supply.

avulsion - when a muscle is forcefully stretched beyond its freely-available range of motion, or when it meets a sudden unexpected resistance while contracting forcefully.


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biarthrodial muscles - muscles that span over two joints and have a function over those joints.

bradykinesia - slowness of movement.

bradyphrenia - slowness of thought processes.

brain attack (also called stroke) - happens when brain cells die because of inadequate blood flow to the brain.

bursa - a sac filled with fluid located between a bone and a tendon or muscle.

bursitis - repeated small stresses and overuse that cause the bursa to swell and become irritated.


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cardiac - pertaining to the heart.

carpal tunnel syndrome - a condition in which the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist, a narrow confined space. Since the median nerve provides sensory and motor functions to the thumb and three middle fingers, many symptoms may result.

cartilage - a smooth material that covers bone ends of a joint to cushion the bone and allow the joint to move easily without pain.

central nervous system - the brain and the spinal cord.

cervical spine - the area of the spinal cord located in the neck.

coccydynia - pain around the coccyx.

cognition - mental functions such as the ability to think, reason, and remember.

computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.

congenital - present at birth.

contracture - inability to move a joint due to a permanent rigidity or contraction of a muscle.

contusion - bruise.

corticosteroids (Also called glucocorticoids.) - potent anti-inflammatory hormones that are made naturally in the body or synthetically for use as drugs; most commonly prescribed drug of this type is prednisone.

crepitus - grinding noise or sensation within a joint.


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deep vein thrombosis (DVT) - blockage of the deep veins; particularly common in the leg.

dementia - not a disease itself, but group of symptoms that characterize diseases and conditions; it is commonly defined as a decline in intellectual functioning that is severe enough to interfere with the ability to perform routine activities.

diffuse axonal injury (DAI) - the shearing (tearing) of the brain's long connecting nerve fibers (axons) that can occur with severe brain injury.

disability - the inability to perform an activity in a normal way as a result of an impairment, such as not being able to walk due to a weakness or paralysis in a leg.

disk herniation (also called disk prolapse, disk bulge, slipped disk) - a protruding or bulging of the padded areas, called disks, between the vertebrae in the spine.

dislocation - a dislocation occurs when extreme force is put on a ligament causing the two bone ends to separate. Dislocations can also affect a joint, the point where two or more bones come together. The joint is created as a "ball-and-socket" joint. A dislocated joint causes the head of the bone (ball) to partially or completely come out of the socket.


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embolus - a "wandering" blood clot.

endorphins - biochemical substances made by the body that may help reduce the level of pain.

epilepsy (also called seizure disorder) - a brain disorder involving recurrent seizures.

ergonomics - the science of obtaining a correct match between the human body, work-related tasks, and work tools.


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femur - thighbone.

fibromyalgia (also called fibrositis) - a chronic, widespread pain in muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints throughout the body.

fracture - a break in a bone.

frozen shoulder (also called capsulitis) - a shoulder injury which has four stages: pain, pain and stiffness, stiffness, and resolution.


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gait - pattern of walking or locomotion.

genu valgum - commonly known as "knock knees."

genu varum - commonly known as "bowed legs."

gluteus maximus - large, superficial, buttock muscle.

gout - a result of a defect in body chemistry (such as uric acid in the joint fluid), this painful condition most often attacks small joints, especially the big toe. It can usually be controlled with medication and changes in diet.

grades of movement - standardized means of documenting techniques of mobilization, relating it to the true feel of joint movement.

Guillain-Barre syndrome - A disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the nervous system.


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hamstrings - muscles located in the posterior compartment of the thigh.

handicap - barriers imposed by society, the environment, or attitudes that prevent a person with a disability from performing a role that is normal for that person.

humerus - the bone of the upper arm.

hydrotherapy - rehabilitation exercises performed in water.

hyperextension - active or passive force which takes the joint into extension, but beyond its normal range.

hypertrophy - an increase in the size of tissue.

hypomobility - a decrease in the normal range of joint movement.

hypoxia - decreased level of oxygen in the blood or tissues.


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ice therapy - cooling of deeper tissues.

idiopathic - of unknown origin.

immobilization - preventing movement to allow for natural healing to take place.

impairment - loss of normal function of part of the body due to disease or injury, such as paralysis of the leg.

inflammation - a normal reaction to injury or disease, which usually results in swelling, pain, and stiffness.

intercostal muscles - muscles lying between ribs; often injured by muscle strain.

intervertebral disk - disk that forms a cartilaginous joint between the vertebrae to provide shock absorption.

intra-articular - within the joint.

ischemia - lack of oxygen.

isometric - muscle contraction without movement at the joint.


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joint - where the ends of two or more bones meet.

joint locking - extremely painful condition usually caused by entrapment of a loose body within the joint.

Jordan frame - Specialized stretcher developed for transport of suspected spinal injured patients.

jumper's knee (also called patellar tendonitis) - a condition characterized by inflammation of the tendons in the knee area that causes local pain and tenderness.


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knee reconstruction - surgical restoration of the knee.

kyphosis - exaggerated outward curvature of the spine.


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laminectomy - surgical procedure, which includes removal of a portion of the lamina, to provide more room in the vertebral canal; usually done for disc herniation or spinal canal stenosis.

ligaments - a white, shiny, flexible band of fibrous tissue that binds joints together and connects various bones and cartilage.

loose body - name given to an object, located within a joint, that has become detached.

lordosis - curve of the spine.

lower back (also called lumbar spine) - a complex structure that connects the upper body to the lower body; consists of vertebrae, disks, spinal cord, and nerves.


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magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

manual therapy - passive movement techniques.

massage - mechanical form of therapy in which the soft tissues are made more pliable, promoting increased blood flow and healing.

medial epicondylitis (also known as golfer's elbow, baseball elbow, suitcase elbow, or forehand tennis elbow) - pain caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm.

median nerve - large nerve, comprising segments from the cervical spine, that is involved in nerve function of the upper limb; commonly compressed in the carpal tunnel of the wrist.

meninges - the thin layers of tissue that cover the brain. The three layers are the dura mater, the arachnoid, and the pia mater.

menisci - two crescent-shaped discs of connective tissue between the bones of the knees that act as shock absorbers to cushion the lower part of the leg from the weight of the rest of the body.

mobility - movement.

Morton's neuroma - A pinched nerve that usually causes pain between the third and fourth toes.

multifidus - deep lumbar spine muscle that stabilizes the lumbar spine.

multiple sclerosis (MS) - a disease of the central nervous system that is an unpredictable condition that can be relatively benign, disabling, or devastating, leaving the patient unable to speak, walk, or write.

muscular dystrophy - the name given to a group of diseases that are, for the most part, genetically determined and cause gradual wasting of muscle with accompanying weakness and deformity.

musculoskeletal system - the complex system involving the body's muscles and skeleton, and including the joints, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.

myofascial pain - an aching pain in muscles that tends to be associated with poor posture; patients can become sore in different parts of the body, such as the neck and arms, and often report they have difficulty sleeping or feeling restored from sleep.

myofascial trigger point - areas of focal muscle tenderness and spasm.


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nerve conduction tests - procedure to determine nerve impulse generation.

neuralgia - pain in distribution of nerve or nerves.

neuritis - inflammation of a nerve or nerves.

neurogenic - of nerve origin.

neurological - pertaining to the nervous system.

nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) - medication that produces fever reducing, analgesic (pain relieving), and anti-inflammatory effects.


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orthosis - a brace or splint used to strengthen or stabilize part of the body, usually an arm or leg.

osteophyte - outgrowth of bone.

osteoporosis - a condition that develops when bone is no longer replaced as quickly as it is removed.

overuse conditions - injuries due to minor trauma involving soft-tissue injuries - injuries that affect the bone, muscles, ligaments, and/or tendons.


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pain - an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience primarily associated with tissue damage, or described in terms of tissue damage, or both.

pain threshold - the least experience of pain that a person can recognize.

pain tolerance level - the greatest level of pain that a person is prepared to tolerate.

palpation - examination by feeling part of the body.

palsy - paralysis of a muscle or group of muscles.

paraplegia - loss of movement and sensation in both legs.

patella - kneecap.

patellar tendonitis - inflammatory condition of the patellar ligament, usually due to overuse.

Phalen's test - Test for carpal tunnel syndrome in which the wrists are flexed for one minute.

phantom pain - pain that occurs after an amputation, below the level of the amputated limb.

physiatrist - the physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

physiatry - branch of medicine that deals with restoring function for a person who has been disabled as a result of a disease, disorder, or injury.

prednisolone - corticosteroid medication; usually used for inflammation.

prosthesis - an artificial body part replacement.

pubic symphysis - anterior joint of the pelvis.

pulmonary - pertaining to the lungs.


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quadriceps - a large four-part muscle at the front of the thigh that facilitates leg extension.

quadriplegia - loss of movement and sensation in all four limbs.


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radionuclide bone scan - a nuclear imaging technique that uses a very small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into the patient's bloodstream to be detected by a scanner. This test shows blood flow to the bone and cell activity within the bone.

radius - the shorter of the two bones of the forearm.

Rancho scales - Levels of a patient's response to external stimuli and the environment following a brain injury.

range of motion - the extent that a joint will move from full extension to full flexion.

rehabilitation - the process of helping a person achieve the highest level of function, independence, and quality of life possible. From the Latin "habilitas," which means to make able.

retrolisthesis - posterior slippage of one vertebra onto another.

rheumatoid arthritis - an inflammatory disease that involves the lining of the joint (synovium). The inflammation often affects the joints of the hands and the feet and tends to occur equally on both sides of the body.

R.I.C.E. - Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

rigidity - increased resistance to the passive movement of a limb.

rotator cuff - muscles and tendons that form a cuff over the shoulder joint and attach to the scapula to the bone in the upper arm (humerus); major function is to control and produce rotation of the shoulder.


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scapula - shoulder blade.

sciatica (also called lumbar radiculopathy) - a pain that originates along the sciatic nerve.

scoliosis - a lateral, or sideways, curvature and rotation of the back bones (vertebrae), giving the appearance that the person is leaning to one side.

seizure - occurs when part(s) of the brain receives a burst of abnormal electrical signals that temporarily interrupts normal electrical brain function.

shin splints - damage to one of two groups of muscles along the shin bone that cause pain.

soft tissues - the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the musculoskeletal system.

spasm - a condition in which a muscle or group of muscles involuntarily contract.

spasticity - increased muscle tone that results in a tightening and shortening of a muscle.

spinal cord - a bundle of nerves that carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

spinal instability - increased motion between vertebra, usually resulting from an injury; pain typically feels like tingling in the neck or arms.

spinal stenosis - narrowing of the nerve openings either around the spinal cord or nerve roots that can cause symptoms similar to a pinched nerve; pain is described either as an aching or an electrical feeling down the arm.

spine - a column in the body consisting of 33 vertebrae.

spondylolisthesis - forward displacement of one vertebra on its lower neighbor.

spondylosis - degenerative processes that affect the intervertebral disk.

sprain - a partial or complete tear of a ligament.

stirrups - technique of ankle strapping using rigid tape placed on the ankle, medial to lateral adhering to the undersurface of the heel, mimicking a stirrup.

straight leg raise (SLR) - technique for measuring sciatic nerve mobility and/or hamstring length.

strain - a partial or complete tear of a muscle or tendon.

stress fracture - a bone injury caused by overuse.

stroke (also called brain attack) - happens when brain cells die because of inadequate blood flow to the brain.


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tendon - the tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones.

tendonitis - an inflammation in a tendon or the tendon covering.

tennis elbow (also called lateral epicondylitis) - an injury to the tendons on the lateral portion of the elbow that bend the wrist backward away from the palms of the hands.

thoracic spine - the 12 vertebrae between the cervical and lumbar spines that provide attachments for the ribs.

thrombus - a blood clot.

transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) - a method of local electrical stimulation to nerve endings under the skin to provide pain relief.

transient ischemic attack (TIA) - temporary loss of blood supply to tissues in the brain; also called a "mini-stroke."

transverse frictions - deep massage technique used for tendon and ligament conditions.


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ultrasound - a diagnostic technique which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs.


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valgus deformity - a lateral inclination of a distal bone of a joint from the midline.

varus deformity - a medial inclination of a distal bone of a joint from the midline.

vertebrae - bony structures that surround the spinal cord; also called the "back bone."


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x-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.


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