Physical Therapy Glossary

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

Cervical – pertaining to the neck

Core – pertaining to the trunk of the body (primarily abdominals and back)

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

Extension – a straightening or backward movement of the spine or limbs

External rotation – an outward turning of the limb away from the body

Flexion – a bending or forward movement of the spine or limbs

Gross Motor – refers to movement of large muscle groups

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

Internal rotation – an inward turning of the limb toward the body

Instability – lack of firmness in weight-bearing; difficulty maintaining weight bearing

Lumbar – pertaining to the low back

Midline – the theoretical lines that divide the body into two equal halves vertically or horizontally

Motor Control – the ability of the Central Nervous System (CNS) to regulate or direct the musculoskeletal system in a purposeful act

Motor Planning – the ability to organize and perform movement in a meaningful manner

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

Range of Motion – a measure of the amount of movement/motion available at any given joint of the body

Reflex – an involuntary/automatic response to a stimulus

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

Tactile Defensiveness – a negative response or increased sensitivity to touch

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

Unilateral – affecting or occurring on only one side of the body

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

Weight shift – translation or movement of body weight from one side to another, forward or back

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