Glossary of words and terms

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    Cartoon image of four children


    Abduction - A movement of a limb away from midline or the centre of the body 

    Adduction - A movement of a limb toward midline or the centre of the body 

    Ataxia - Movements are often shaky—the child may have a tremor when trying to move their arms and legs.

    Base of support - The weight-bearing surface of the body eg. when standing, the feet are the base of support.

    Bilateral - both sides of the body, as in both arms or both legs 

    Calcaneal Valgus - The heel of the foot tilts outwards, thereby flattening the arch of the foot 

    Calcaneal Varus - The heel of the foot tilts inwards, thereby increasing the arch of the foot 

    Cerebral Palsy -  is caused by a problem in the parts of the brain responsible for controlling muscles. The condition can occur if the brain develops abnormally or is damaged before, during or shortly after birth.  Children with cerebral palsy can have problems such as muscle weakness, muscle stiffness, difficulty in controlling movements and difficulty with balance.

    Cervical - The neck

    Cognitive – The process of being aware, knowing, thinking, and learning.

    Contracture – Condition when muscles are continuously contracted and become fixed in position.

    Core - The trunk (primarily abdominals and back) and pelvis

    Developmental delay – a delay in an area of the child’s development eg. a child with gross motor developmental delay may be late to roll over, sit or crawl.

    Developmental Milestones – Anticipated or expected age at which children develop certain skills and/or abilities. Examples include walking, talking etc. 

    Diplegia – A type of Cerebral Palsy: The main difficulty is with the legs although it can be quite common to have slight difficulties in controlling the arms too.

    Distal - Farthest away from the centre, from midline or from the trunk 

    Dynamic - refers to the body moving 

    Dyskinetic – A type of Cerebral Palsy: Children with this type of cerebral palsy have muscle tone that changes, sometimes it can be high and sometimes it can be low.  Movements can be slow or fast and often repetitive and rhythmical.  Children with this type of cerebral palsy often move when they don’t mean to.  The terms dystonia and athetosis refer to types of dyskinesia.

    Erbs Palsy – Paralysis of the arm caused by injury to the nerves of the upper arm or brachial plexus, usually as the result of birth trauma.

    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 

    Genu Valgus - The knees bend inwards as in “knock kneed” 

    Genu Varus - The knees bend outwards as in “bow legged” 

    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 

    Hemiplegia – A type of Spastic Cerebral Palsy affecting one side of the body

    Hyperextension - Excessive movement in the direction of extension

    Hypermobility - Movement beyond normal range of motion 

    Hypertonic - Muscle tone higher than normal

    Hypotonic - Less than normal tone; floppy 

    Internal rotation - An inward turning of the limb toward the body 

    Involuntary Movement – Movement or spasm that is not controlled by the brain. Frequent episodes of involuntary movement interfere with the body's ability to function. 

    Kyphosis - An increased curvature of the upper back/thoracic spine  

    Long-sitting - Sitting with legs straight out in front 

    Lordosis - An anterior/forward curvature of the lumbar and cervical vertebrae (spine). 

    Lumbar – The low back 

    Orthotics – Splints for the hands or feet, specialist footwear, Lycra suits are referred to as ‘orthotics’.

    Parasis or Plegia – Terms used to describe paralysis associated with Cerebral Palsy.

    Pes Planus - Flat feet 

    Prematurity – A baby born prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy.

    Prone - Lying on the belly, face down

    Proprioception - The awareness of posture and movement, sensed by muscles, tendons, and soft tissue. 

    Proximal - Nearest to the point of attachment or centre of the body 

    Quadriceps - A large muscle group on the anterior/front surface of the thigh responsible for knee extension 

    Quadriplegia – A type of Spastic Cerebral palsy in which both the upper and lower extremities are affected.

    Range of Motion - A measure of the amount of movement/motion available at any given joint of the body 

    Recurvatum - A backward bending, frequently referring to the knees 

    Reflex - An involuntary/automatic response to a stimulus 

    Side-sitting - Sitting on one hip with legs flexed to the opposite side 

    Spasticity – A type of Cerebral Palsy: the child’s muscles feel tight and stiff and are weaker than normal.   The ‘tone’ of the muscle is sometimes described as being ‘high’.

    Static - At rest; not moving 

    Supine - Lying on the back, face up 

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

    Tailor-sitting - Buttocks on the floor with legs flexed and crossed (“pretzel sitting”) 

    Thoracic - 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 

    White Matter – The part of the Central Nervous System containing neurons that are the channels of communication between grey matters of the brain and the grey matter of the brain and the rest of the body. White matter abnormalities are often linked to Cerebral Palsy.