Basic Definitions


Strains: indirect injury to muscles and tendons caused by excessive stretch or tension within the fibers.
Grading system:

Sprains:  stretching or tearing of ligaments and/or joint capsule when the joint is stretched beyond its normal limits.  
Grading system:

Tendinitis:  "-itis" suffix indicates inflammation.  Therefore, this is an inflammation of a muscle tendon.   This type of injury typically occurs from small repetitive, overuse actions.   However, it can occur from a single traumatic episode. 

Bursitis:  There's that "-itis" suffix again.  This is an inflammation of what is known as a bursa (bursa sac).   Bursae (plural) are fluid-filled sacs that serve to cushion muscles, tendons, and ligaments from other friction-causing structures (bone, mainly) and to facilitate smooth movement.

Subluxation:  partial dissociation of a joint's articulating surfaces.

Dislocation:  complete dissociation of a joint's articulating surfaces.

Synovitis:  Another "-itis".   This is an inflammation of the capsule that surrounds a joint (like the knee or elbow) typically secondary to some other inflammation within or around the joint.

Fracture:  any "break" in the continuity of a bone.  Fractures and "broken bones" are the same thing.   There are bascially two classes of fractures with many types within each class.   The classes are closed (bone stays inside of the skin) and opened (bones sticks out of the skin).  Some of the different types of fractures are:

RICE:  Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.   Typically you will want to ice the injury for 20 minutes, 3 times per day for the first 3 days.  DO NOT use HEAT of any kind on a new injury or if you see new swelling of an old injury.  You may use heat after the first 3 days, if the swelling as stopped. When in doubt - Use ice!!!

DIP:  this is the name of the last joint of your fingers - distal interphalangeal joint.

PIP:  this is the name of the first joint of your fingers - proximal interphalangeal joint.

MCP:  this is the name of the joint between your palm and your finger - metacarpophalageal joint.

Phalanx/phalanges:  these are your fingers

Metacarpals:  these are the bones of your palm.

Carpals:  these are your wrist bones - there are eight of them.

Collateral ligaments:  these are the ligaments on each side of a joint between bones.

MOI:  this is the abbreviation for "mechanism of injury" - meaning how the injury can occur.

ROM:  this means "range of motion"

Closed Reduction:  this is a procedure where the doctor/PA places the two fractured ends of bone in line with each other or places the two ends of a dislocated joint back into the proper position.  This is a non-surgical prodecure and sometimes requires the injection of a pain medication (e.g., lidocaine).

ORIF:  this stands for Open Reduction Internal Fixation.  This is a procedure where a doctor must surgically repair a fracture or dislocation normally with the use of pins, plates, and/or screws.

Abduction:  the movement of a body part away from its midline.

Adduction:  the movement of a body part toward its midline.

Proximal: the part of an extremity closest to the point of attachment.

Distal: the part of an extremity futherest away from the point of attachment.

Anatomical Snuff Box:the triangular depression observed on the back of the hand when the thumb is fully extended. It is bounded by the tendons of the extensor pollicis longus on the medial side and the tendon of the extensor pollicis brevis on the lateral side. 

Necrosis:death of cells, tissue, or organ. This can include, but is not limited to skin, muscle, & bone.

Median Nerve:this is the nerve that supplies the inside of your forearm and the thumb & index finger of your hand.

NSAIDs:Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs. This form of medication typically comes in pill form and is used to slow down the body's response to injury and give pain relief. Some of the more common NSAIDs are: Advil, Motrin, Midol IB (ibuprofen), Relafen (nabumetone), Aleve (naproxen), Celebrex (celecoxib), and Vioxx (rofexcoxib).


Starkey, C & Ryan, JL; Evaluation of Orthopedic and Athletic Injuries. F.A. Davis Company. 1996.

Stedman, TL; Stedman's Medical Dictionary. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. 27th ed. 2000.