Acute Care

Medical treatment provided for a severe, often sudden illness, injury, or exacerbation of a condition, typically in a hospital setting for a short period.

Aerobic Exercise

Physical activity that relies on the aerobic energy-generating process, requiring oxygen to sustain the activity over longer periods. It improves cardiovascular conditioning and endurance.


A muscle that is the primary mover in a joint motion, contracting to create the movement. In physical therapy, understanding agonists is crucial for designing rehabilitation and exercise programs.

Anaerobic Exercise

Intense physical activity that occurs in the absence of sufficient oxygen and relies on energy-generating processes that do not require oxygen, often resulting in muscle strengthening and conditioning.

Ballistic Stretching

A form of stretching that involves rapid and bouncing movements to push the body parts beyond their usual range of motion, aiming to improve flexibility and muscle power.


The study of the mechanical laws relating to the movement or structure of living organisms. In physical therapy, it’s often applied to understand and enhance body movement and function.

Body Mechanics

Techniques used to move one’s body to prevent or correct posture problems, reduce stress on the body, and enhance physical capabilities. It’s important in physical therapy for safe and effective movement.


Inflammation of a bursa, typically one near the joints in the shoulders, elbows, or hips. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that cushion and reduce friction between bones and other moving structures.


Referring to a health condition or disease that is persistent or otherwise long-lasting in its effects, often slower to develop and requiring long-term management or care.

Compartment Syndrome

A painful and potentially serious condition caused by bleeding or swelling within an enclosed bundle of muscles – known as a muscle compartment. It can lead to muscle and nerve damage and problems with blood flow.

Core Stability

The strength and ability to maintain balance of the core muscles of the abdomen, back, and pelvis, which is essential for providing a foundation for all limb movements and maintaining good posture.


The use of extreme cold in medical treatment to relieve muscle pain, sprains, and swelling after soft tissue damage or surgery. It’s often delivered through ice packs or cold chambers.


The medical process of removing dead, damaged, or infected tissue to improve the healing potential of the remaining healthy tissue, often used in wound care and infection treatment.


A physical therapy technique that uses high-frequency electrical currents to produce heat deep within a targeted tissue. It’s used to relax the muscles, increase blood flow, and reduce pain.


The action of raising the foot upwards towards the shin. It’s the opposite of plantarflexion and is common in ankle and toe movement discussions.


Abnormal or impaired functioning of a bodily system or organ, often resulting in developmental or movement disorders, pain, or other symptoms that affect quality of life.

Eccentric Training

Strength training that focuses on the eccentric phase of muscle contraction, where the muscle lengthens under tension. It’s known for effectively increasing muscle strength and size.


Swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in the body’s tissues, which can result from injury, infection, or other conditions. It’s often most noticeable in the skin, especially in the extremities.


The use of electrical energy as a medical treatment, which can include pain relief, muscle stimulation, and promoting tissue repair. It encompasses a variety of treatments, including TENS and EMS.


The movement of the sole of the foot away from the median plane of the body, or turning the foot outward. It’s the opposite of inversion.


A band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily made up of collagen, that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs.


A surgical procedure that cuts through the fascia to relieve tension or pressure. It’s often used to treat compartment syndrome by relieving the pressure that’s built up within a muscle compartment.

Flexibility Training

Exercises that increase the range of motion of muscles and joints. Flexibility training includes stretching exercises that enhance the elasticity of the muscle and improve muscle health.

Functional Training

Training that involves exercises designed to train and develop your muscles to make it easier and safer to perform everyday activities, such as lifting, bending, or climbing stairs.

Gait Analysis

The systematic study of animal locomotion, particularly human motion, by the observation and measurement of body movements and mechanisms. In physical therapy, it’s used to assess, plan, and treat individuals with conditions affecting their ability to walk.

Gait Training

Rehabilitation therapy that focuses on improving the patient’s ability to stand and walk correctly. It may involve strengthening exercises, balance training, and the use of assistive devices.


A tool used in physical therapy to measure the angle of a joint’s movement, which helps determine the range of motion and track improvements or limitations over time.


The practice or process of measuring angles in the human body, especially joint angles, to assess, diagnose, and track changes in the range of motion.

Heel Strike

The phase in the gait cycle where the heel first makes contact with the ground. It’s an important aspect of walking analysis and rehabilitation.


A collection of blood outside of blood vessels, usually in liquid form within the tissue. It’s typically caused by a break in the wall of a blood vessel, leading to internal bleeding and a localized swelling.


The use of water in pain relief and treatment. It involves various methods, such as whirlpools, aquatic exercises, or water immersion, to relieve pain and improve physical function.


The increase in the volume of an organ or tissue due to the enlargement of its component cells. In physical therapy, it often refers to muscle hypertrophy achieved through exercise.


A condition where soft tissue is pinched or compressed. In shoulder impingement, for instance, tendons or bursa in the shoulder are compressed, leading to pain and movement restriction.

Intermittent Claudication

A condition characterized by muscle pain on exertion, especially in the legs, which is relieved by a short period of rest. It’s often due to poor circulation in the affected areas.


A technique of introducing ionic medicinal compounds into the body through the skin by applying a local electric current. It’s used in physical therapy to reduce inflammation and manage pain.

Isokinetic Exercises

Strength training exercises using machines that produce a constant speed no matter how much effort you put into it. It’s useful for measuring muscle strength and rehabilitating muscles.

Isometric Exercises

Exercises that involve muscle contraction without movement of the joint. It’s often used in the early stages of rehabilitation or when joint motion is not advisable.

Joint Capsule

A sac-like structure that surrounds a joint, maintaining stability and integrity of the joint. It contains the synovial fluid which lubricates and nourishes the joint.

Joint Mobilization

Manual therapy techniques that involve the passive movement of specific joints using the hands or a device. It’s used to treat joint dysfunction, pain, and decreased range of motion.

Jumper’s Knee

Also known as patellar tendonitis, it’s an overuse injury affecting the knee, characterized by inflammation of the patellar tendon, usually due to repetitive jumping and landing.


The scientific study of human or non-human body movement, addressing physiological, biomechanical, and psychological mechanisms of movement.


The practice of applying a special elastic tape to the body to provide support, reduce pain, decrease swelling, and improve muscle performance without restricting movement.


The sense of movement or the perception of one’s own body parts’ movement and position. It’s crucial for coordination and the execution of movement.


A spinal disorder causing an excessive outward curve of the spine, resulting in an abnormal rounding of the upper back. It’s often referred to as a hunchback.


A short band of tough, flexible, fibrous connective tissue that connects two bones or cartilages or holds together a joint, providing stability and support to the joint.


A condition characterized by an excessive inward curvature of the lower back. It’s commonly referred to as “swayback” and can lead to lower back pain.


A condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system, often occurring in the arms or legs.

Manual Therapy

A clinical approach involving specific hands-on techniques, including but not limited to manipulation/mobilization, used by physical therapists to diagnose and treat soft tissues and joint structures.


The act of making something movable or capable of movement. In physical therapy, it often refers to exercises or techniques designed to restore joint movement, muscle function, and flexibility.

Mobilization with Movement (MWM)

A manual therapy technique developed by Brian Mulligan, involving gentle, passive movements (mobilizations) applied to a joint in conjunction with active or passive movements from the patient, aimed at improving function and reducing pain.

Muscle Endurance

The ability of a muscle, or a group of muscles, to sustain repeated contractions or to continue applying force against a fixed object for an extended period.

Muscle Strength

The ability of a muscle or group of muscles to exert force against resistance. It is a key component in overall health and fitness, including physical performance.


Relating to the fascia, the dense, tough tissue that surrounds and covers all your muscles and bones. The term “myofascial” often comes up in the context of myofascial pain or myofascial release, a form of physical therapy used to treat chronic pain in the tissues that surround and support muscles throughout your body.


The study of the dynamics of the nervous system, looking at how physical movement and posture affect neural tissues, and how this interaction can cause neurologic symptoms or affect the health of the nervous system.

Neuromuscular Re-education

A technique used in physical therapy to restore normal movement patterns. It involves retraining the neuromuscular system to function properly through repetitive movements, postures, or activities.


The ability of the brain and nervous system in all species to change their connections and behavior in response to new information, sensory stimulation, development, damage, or dysfunction.

Occupational Therapy (OT)

A type of therapy focused on helping individuals develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. OTs often work with people with mental health problems, disabilities, injuries, or impairments.

Orthopedic Physical Therapy

A specialty within physical therapy that involves the treatment of the musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. It is often involved in post-surgical recovery or injury rehabilitation.


Devices like braces and insoles used to correct body alignment, improve function, or relieve discomfort in a limb or other parts of the body. They range from shoe inserts to complex braces.


A type of arthritis that occurs when the protective cartilage at the ends of bones wears down over time. It commonly affects joints in the hands, knees, hips, and spine.


A condition where bone mineral density is lower than normal. It is considered by many doctors to be a precursor to osteoporosis, a condition where bones are weak and brittle.

Paraffin Bath

A form of heat therapy for the hands, feet, and other joints in which the affected area is dipped into a warm mixture of paraffin wax. It is often used to relieve pain and stiffness.

Passive Range of Motion (PROM)

The range of movement through which a joint can go without the subject using his or her muscles. In therapy, a therapist or equipment moves the limb to apply the motion.


A type of exercise training designed to produce fast, powerful movements, and improve the functions of the nervous system, generally for the purpose of improving performance in sports.


The inward roll of the foot while walking or running which is a normal part of the gait cycle. Excessive pronation can lead to injuries and is often addressed in physical therapy.


The sense, conscious or unconscious, of the movements and position of the body and especially its limbs, independent of vision; this sense is gained primarily from input from sensory nerve terminals in muscles and tendons and the fibrous capsule of joints combined with input from the vestibular apparatus.

Quad Sets

An exercise often prescribed in physical therapy to strengthen and maintain muscle tone in the quadriceps, the group of muscles on the front of the thigh.


Paralysis caused by illness or injury that results in the partial or total loss of use of all one’s limbs and torso. Also known as tetraplegia.

Quick Stretch

A technique used in physical therapy to facilitate muscular contraction and enhance the effectiveness of exercise. It involves a rapid stretching of a muscle to stimulate a reflex contraction of the same muscle.


A condition due to a compressed nerve in the spine that can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness along the course of the nerve.


A process aimed at enabling persons with disabilities or impairments to reach and maintain their optimal physical, sensory, intellectual, psychological, and social functional levels.


An acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. It’s a first-aid treatment for acute injuries, particularly sprains and strains, to reduce pain and swelling.


A condition in which a person’s spine has a sideways curve, usually shaped like an “S” or “C”. It can lead to reduced respiratory function, pain, and reduced mobility.


A condition in which specific muscles are continuously contracted. This contraction causes stiffness or tightness of the muscles and can interfere with normal movement, speech, and gait.


An injury to a ligament caused by being stretched beyond its capacity. A sprain can range from a minor stretching to a complete tear.


An injury to a muscle or tendon in which the muscle fibers tear as a result of overstretching. A strain is often the result of sudden, forceful movement or overuse of a particular muscle.


Inflammation or irritation of a tendon, a thick cord that attaches bone to muscle. Tendonitis is often caused by repetitive, minor impact on the area, or from a sudden more serious injury.

Therapeutic Exercise

Planned physical activities designed to restore or enhance physical function, reduce symptoms, and improve overall health. It includes a wide range of activities from stretching to strength training.


Also known as “wry neck,” a condition where the head becomes persistently turned to one side, often due to muscle contraction on one side of the neck.


The application of a pulling force to an injured part of the body or extremity to relieve pain, decrease muscle spasm, or realign fractures.

Ulnar Deviation

A hand deformity where the fingers tend to bend or “deviate” towards the little finger. It’s often seen in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Vestibular Rehabilitation

A specialized form of therapy intended to alleviate both the primary and secondary problems caused by vestibular disorders, which can include dizziness, vertigo, balance issues, and more.


Pertaining to the internal organs of the body, especially those within the chest and abdomen.


A neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like that which can occur in a car accident. It can result in persistent pain and loss of range of motion.

Wolff’s Law

A theory that states that bones in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which they are placed. If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resist that sort of loading.


A form of electromagnetic radiation used to create images of the inside of the body. X-rays are used in medical settings to diagnose breaks in bones, conditions in the lungs, and other medical conditions.


A treatment method that involves drying out an area, often used for skin conditions or wound care. It’s not as commonly referred to in mainstream physical therapy as other modalities.

Yield Point

The point at which a material or tissue begins to deform permanently under the application of an external load or force. Understanding this helps in preventing injuries and in the rehabilitation process.

Yoga Therapy

A type of therapy that uses yoga postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and guided imagery to improve mental and physical health. The holistic focus of yoga therapy encourages the integration of mind, body, and spirit.


A surgical procedure that creates zig-zag incisions to reorientate a scar tissue, thereby making the scar less noticeable and more functional. It can be used to improve the functional and aesthetic aspects of scars.


Similar to Z-Plasty, it’s a surgical technique used to improve the functional and cosmetic appearance of scars. It makes use of zig-zag incisions to redirect tension and make scars less noticeable.

Zen Shiatsu

A type of massage therapy that uses finger and palm pressure to energetic pathways, called meridians, to improve the flow of energy. It aims to treat a variety of physical and emotional problems.

Zero Balancing

A body-mind therapy using skilled touch to address the relationship between energy and structures of the body. It’s designed to improve wellness by balancing energy in the body.

Zinc Oxide Tape

A non-stretch tape with a zinc oxide adhesive that is used in sports and physical therapy to prevent injuries, reduce strain, and support muscles or joints.

Zinc Therapy

The use of zinc in various forms to help treat skin conditions, wounds, and other medical issues. In physical therapy, it may be used in wound care.

Zone Therapy

A form of alternative medicine similar to reflexology, based on the notion that areas on the feet and hands are linked to other areas and organs of the body. It’s believed to promote healing and wellness.

Zones of Articulation

Specific anatomical areas where bones join or articulate, allowing for movement and stability. Understanding these zones helps in diagnosing and treating joint disorders and injuries.

Zoster Sine Herpete

A rare type of shingles, which occurs without the characteristic shingles rash. It results in pain and often follows the path of a single nerve.

Zygomatic Process

A bony projection of the temporal bone that forms part of the zygoma, or cheekbone. It’s relevant in understanding facial anatomy, trauma, and in certain types of physical therapy.


The cell formed by the union of two gametes (i.e., sperm and egg), representing the earliest stage of development in a multicellular organism. It’s more a biological term but understanding it is crucial for developmental biology.