Physiotherapy Terminology


Physiotherapy is a specialised area of medical field and as such it uses terms that are inherent to the profession. For those who are unfamiliar with physiotherapy terminology, some of the terms may sound like another language. This article presents a glossary of commonly used terms in order to give you a better understanding of what they mean and how they may relate to you when you visit our Physioworks Health Group clinic.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) refers to daily self-care activities like bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding and meal preparation. ADL retraining is usually the domain of Occupational Therapy.

Active Range of Motion is when a person moves a body part on his own without any help or support from the therapist. This is as opposed to passive range of motion when the part is moved by the physical therapist without any help from the patient. Active assisted range of motion is movement of a body part assisted either by the physical therapist, or by the patient using another limb to assist the weaker limb.

Contracture occurs when a joint loses motion due to structural changes in the muscle, ligaments or tendons. Contractures are common in stroke as a result of lack of movement.

A deformity is a major difference in the shape of a body part compared to what is normal for that body part. Deformity is most often seen in arthritis and sometimes in severe burn cases.

Fine motor is the action involving the small muscles of the hands, as in handwriting, sewing or knitting. Gross motor involves the large muscles of the body, as in walking, running or swimming.

Manual therapy is skillful handling with the hands to give a therapeutic effect.

These are just a few of the most basic terms one would encounter during a physiotherapy session. As always, we will clarify anything you may have questions about.

Physioworks Health Group

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