Glossary of Physical Therapy Terms

Glossary of Physical Therapy Terms

Click the letters below for the terms and their meanings.

A

Abduction
A movement of a limb away from midline or the center of the body
Adduction
A movement of a limb toward midline or the center of the body
Ataxia
Muscular incoordination especially manifested when voluntary muscular movements are attempted

B

Base of Support
The weight-bearing surface of the body. For example: in standing = the feet
Bilateral
Pertaining to two sides of the body, as in: both arms or both legs

C

Calcaneal Valgum
Angling of the heel of the foot outward, thereby flattening the arch of the foot
Calcaneal Varum
Angling of the heel of the foot inward, thereby increasing or heightening the arch of the foot
Cervical
Pertaining to the neck
Core
Pertaining to the trunk (primarily abdominals and back)

D

Dissociation
To separate. For example: one extremity/limb performs a movement without the other extremity doing the same or similar movement at the same time
Distal
Farthest from the center, from midline or from the trunk
Dynamic
Pertaining to vital forces or inherent power; refers to the body in motion; opposite of stationary

E

Extension
A straightening or backward movement of the spine or limbs
External Rotation
An outward turning of the limb away from the body

F

Flexion
A bending or forward movement of the spine or limbs

G

Genu Valgum
Angling of the knees inward as in “knock kneed”
Genu Varum
Angling of the knees outward as in “bow legged”
Gross Motor
Refers to movement of large muscle groups

H

Hamstrings
A muscle group on the back of the thigh that can bend/flex the knee and straighten/extend the hip
Hyperextension
Excessive movement in the direction of extension
Hypermobility
Movement beyond normal range of motion
Hypertonic
Muscle tone higher than normal; resistance to passive movement; in extreme form = spasticity
Hypotonic
Less than normal tone; floppy

I

Internal Rotation
An inward turning of the limb toward the body
Instability
Lack of firmness in weight-bearing. Difficulty maintaining weight bearing

J

K

Kinesthesia
Conscious awareness (perception) of body movement (direction and speed), detected by joints
Kyphosis
An increased convexity in the curvature of the thoracic spine (hunchback)

L

Long-sitting
Sitting with legs straight out in front
Lordosis
An anterior/forward curvature of the lumbar and cervical vertebrae (spine). An increase is often referred to as “sway-back”
Lumbar
Pertaining to the low back

M

Midline
The theoretical lines that divide the body into two equal halves vertically or horizontally
Motor Control
The ability of the Central Nervous System to regulate or direct the musculoskeletal system in a purposeful act
Motor Planning
The ability to organize and perform movement in a meaningful manner

N

O

Obliquity
A slanting

P

Pes Planus
Flat feet
Prone
Lying on the belly, face down
Proprioception
The awareness of posture, movement, changes in equilibrium, and the knowledge of position, weight, and resistance of objects in relation to the body. Sensed by muscles, tendons, and soft tissue
Proximal
Nearest to the point of attachment or center of the body

Q

Quadriceps
A large muscle group on the anterior/front surface of the thigh responsible for knee extension

R

Range of Motion
A measure of the amount of movement/motion available at any given joint of the body
Recurvatum
A backward bending, frequently referring to the knees
Reflex
An involuntary/automatic response to a stimulus
Ring Sitting
Sitting on the buttocks with legs forming a ring in front (not crossed)

S

Sacral
The triangular-shaped bone below the lumbar spine formed, typically, by the fusion of 5 vertebrae
Side-sitting
Sitting on one hip with legs flexed to the opposite side
Spasticity
Hypertension of muscles causing stiff and awkward movements
Static
At rest; in equilibrium; not in motion
Supine
Lying on the back, face up
Symmetrical

Referring to symmetry of the body, whose right and left halves are mirror images of each other

T

Tactile Defensiveness
A negative response or increased sensitivity to touch
Tailor-sitting
Buttocks on the floor with legs flexed and crossed (“pretzel sitting”)
Thoracic
Pertaining to or affecting the chest or upper back
Tone (Muscle)
The degree of tension normally present in the resting state of a muscle

U

Unilateral
Affecting or occurring on only one side of the body

V

Vestibular Stimulation
Stimulation of the vestibular apparatus (bones of the inner ear and canals) that provides information regarding acceleration and the position of the body in space

W

Weight Shift
Translation or movement of body weight from one side to another, forward or back

Information courtesy of www.alternatives4children.org