Further Resources: Glossary


Activities of daily living

Any daily activity we perform for self-care such as feeding ourselves, bathing, dressing, grooming, work, homemaking, and leisure.


Fibrous bands that form between tissues joining them together abnormally.


The dynamic and optimal placement of body parts which will allow smooth, efficient movement within and between bases of support with a minimum of effort. so that the bones are efficiently used, so the muscles have to do less work for the same effect.

Ankle foot orthosis (AFO)

An orthotic device, usually made of plastic, which is worn on the lower leg and foot to support the ankle, hold the foot and ankle in the correct position and correct foot drop or plantar flexion.

Antigravity muscles

Any of the muscle groups involved in the stabilisation of joints or other body parts by opposing the effects of gravity.


Neurological condition characterised by loss of the ability to perform activities that a person is physically able and willing to do.


Lack of muscle coordination when a voluntary movement is attempted. It may affect any motion that requires muscles to work together to perform a function, from walking, to picking up an object, to swallowing. Ataxia is usually a sign of a posterior circulation stroke involving the cerebellum and/or its connections.

Base of support

Refers to the area beneath an object or person that includes every point of contact that the object or person makes with the supporting surface. These points of contact may be body parts e.g. feet or hands, or they may include things like beds, crutches or the chair a person is sitting in. The stability of a base of support will be related to its size and position under the influence of gravity.


Relating to the mechanical laws concerning the movement or structure of living organisms.

Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM)

An individualised and standardised outcome measure designed for use by occupational therapists to assess clients perceptions of change in their ability to perform the activities and tasks of daily living. The client identifies problems in daily function that are then measured on the basis of performance and client satisfaction.

Central post stroke pain

Sometimes known as thalamic pain syndrome is a central neuropathic pain occurring in patients affected by stroke. Symptoms can present months after the onset of stroke and can include intermittent or persistent sensations of pain, tingling, sensitivity to hot and cold or touch, numbness, throbbing or stabbing.


Repetitive rapid muscle contractions caused by quick stretch of disinhibited muscle. Most commonly seen at the foot and ankle when plantar flexor muscles are stimulated.


The act or process of knowing, perceiving. Development, functioning relating to the mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning.


A condition of shortening and hardening of muscles, tendons, or other tissue, often leading to deformity and rigidity of joints. Abnormal shortening of muscle tissue, rendering the muscle highly resistant to stretching, can lead to permanent disability.

Connective tissue

Several types of fibrous tissue that vary only in their density and cellularity, as well as the more specialized and recognizable variants-bone, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and adipose (fat) tissue.

Coronal plane

A vertical plane at right angles to a sagittal plane, dividing the body into anterior and posterior portions that divides the body into ventral and dorsal (belly and back) sections.


A time-dependent strain developing in a muscle in response to the application of a force or stress.


Descending and ascending tracts

Nerve pathways that go down within the spinal cord and allow the brain to control movement of the body below the head are known as descending tracts. In contrast, ascending pathways are nerve pathways that go upward within the spinal cord toward the brain carrying sensory information from the body to the brain.


Backward flexion movement of the hand or foot with the toes or fingers pointing up.



Increased or aroused action of a muscle.


The movement produced by contraction of one or more extensor muscles; it generally results in the straightening of a limb or straightens the trunk; the opposite or antagonistic movement of flexion.



A bending movement around a joint in a limb (as the knee or elbow) that decreases the angle between the bones of the limb at the joint. The opposite antagonistic movement to extension.


Paralysis in which muscle tone is lacking in the affected muscles and in which tendon reflexes are decreased or absent. Usually seen as a result of a lesion of a peripheral nerve rather than in a stroke where low tone is usually referred to as hypotonus.

Functional activity

An activity that is essential to support the physical, social, and psychological well-being of a person and allows that person to function in society.

Functional Independence Measure (FIM)

A clinical tool used to assess the ability of persons needing rehabilitative services to cope independently and perform activities of daily living.



A person’s manner of walking.

Goal Attainment Score (GAS)

A therapeutic method that refers to the development of a written follow-up guide between the patient and the counsellor used for monitoring patient progress.

Ground reaction force

The force exerted by the ground on a body in contact with it under the influence of gravity and the motion of the body over the ground.


Health economics

A discipline that is used to complement traditional clinical development information (i.e., efficacy, safety, quality) to guide decision makers regarding patient access to specific drugs and services with regard to cost.


Increased muscle tone, spasticity, rigidity.


Reduced muscle tone, flaccidity.



Reduces or dampens the action of a muscle.


Joint range of movement

The full movement potential of a joint, usually its extent of flexion/extension and in some cases internal/external rotation or abduction/adduction. This can be active if the person can move the joint themselves against gravity or passive if the joint is moved through its range by another person supporting the body part.


Key points of control

Areas of the body, such as the shoulder and pelvic girdles, trunk, hands and feet that can be handled by a therapist in a specific manner to change an abnormal movement pattern, to influence muscle tone throughout the body, and to guide the patient’s active movements.


Muscle fibre

A cylindrical multinucleate cell composed of myofibrils that contract when stimulated.

Muscle tension

Refers to the condition in which muscles of the body remain semi-contracted for an extended period.

Muscle tone

The internal state of muscle fibre activity within individual muscles and muscle groups. The degree of muscle tension or resistance during rest or in response to stretching. See also: Hypertonia and Hypotonia.

Myoclonic jerks

Sudden, rapid, brief, involuntary jerking of a muscle or group of muscles such as twitches some people experience as they fall asleep.

Nerve block injections

A pain management technique involving the injection of an anaesthetic into the area surrounding an affected nerve.


Caused or controlled by or arising in the nervous system.

One and two point discrimination test

The ability to discern that two nearby objects touching the skin are truly two distinct points, not one. It is often tested with two sharp points 3 – 5mm apart during a neurological examination.


A profession allied to eye care whose primary emphasis is the diagnosis and non-surgical management of strabismus (wandering eye), amblyopia (lazy eye) and eye movement disorders.


A support, brace, or splint used to support, align, prevent, or correct the function of movable parts of the body.

Over activity

A level of activity that is too high or greater than normal; hyperactivity.

Passive stretch

Stretching that involves only noncontractile elements, such as ligaments, fascia and nerve roots. Examples include manipulation of a muscle, such as during therapeutic massage.

Patient rated pain scale

An assessment tool used to measure the intensity of a patient’s discomfort. Pain measurements help determine the severity, type, and duration of the pain and can contribute to understanding and possible diagnosis.

Plantar flexion

Movement of the foot in which the foot or toes flex downward toward the sole.


A specialist in the diagnosis and care of foot disorders, including their medical and surgical treatment.

Postural management

A multi-disciplinary approach that has the potential to assist in enhancing and maximising an individual’s abilities in a wide variety of ways involving the assessment and management of all positions that an individual uses i.e. lying in bed, sitting and standing.


To lie face downward.


The sense of the relative position in space of one’s own parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.


Reflex activity

An action or movement not controlled by conscious thought. A reflex may be anything from a hiccup to the involuntary response of a body part, such as the action that occurs in the knee-jerk reflex.


The opposing force to a passive movement as a result of partial contraction of the muscles, or the resistance to passive stretch during resting state.

Sagittal plane

The front-to-back longitudinal vertical plane that divides the upright body into right and left halves.


The contractile unit of a skeletal muscle fibre divided into bands of filaments made of the proteins actin or myosin.

Scottish Stroke Improvement Plan

The Scottish Stroke Care Audit monitors the quality of care provided by the hospitals in all Health Boards by collating data collected by the stroke Managed Clinical Networks (MCNs). These data are used by the Scottish Government to monitor progress against the Scottish Stroke Care Standards and the Scottish Stroke Improvement Plan to standardise stroke care in Scottish hospitals. Its parameters are based on research evidence. It includes swallow screening, thrombolysis, admission to a stroke unit, brain scan within 24 hours of admission, aspirin for thrombolytic strokes and staff training.


Refers to the registration of an incoming (afferent) nerve impulse in that part of the brain which is capable of perception. The awareness of a stimulus as a result of its perception by sensory receptors.


A sudden involuntary contraction of one or more muscles; includes cramp.


A condition in which certain muscles are involuntarily contracting. This contraction causes stiffness or tightness of the muscles and can interfere with normal movement, body alignment, speech and gait. Spasticity is usually caused by damage to the portion of the brain or spinal cord that controls voluntary movement.

Spinal reflex

Spinal reflexes originate from the spinal cord and bypass the brain entirely.


A device used for support or immobilisation of a limb. It can be used in multiple situations, including temporary immobilisation of potentially broken bones or damaged joints and support for joints during activity. Stereognosis – ability to perceive or the perception of material qualities (such as shape) of an object by handling or lifting it. Tactile recognition.


The application of adhesive plaster in overlapping strips upon or around a part such as a painful shoulder to serve as a splint to reduce motion.


To lie face up.



Connective tissue when immobilised forms cross bridges between collagen fibres and thus elasticity is removed.


Velocity dependent catch

Exaggerated tendon jerks resulting from hyper excitability of the stretch reflex.


Weight bearing muscles

The ability of the bodily structure to hold or to bear its own weight in any given position using muscle strength through alignment on a base of support.

Wrist hand orthosis

An orthotic device that begins at the fingers, crosses the wrist, and terminates on the distal portion of the forearm. There are varying designs depending on orthotic requirement needed. Either for passive or functional goals.

Page last reviewed: 30 Apr 2020