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Medical Terminology of the Musculoskeletal System

Medical Terminology of the Musculoskeletal System

This article covers medical terminology of the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system consists of the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, and bones. These terms will help with your study of conditions and diseases related to the musculoskeletal system. This article contains a list of word roots, and a few additional suffixes and prefixes related to the musculoskeletal system. There are terms related to orthopedic specialties and the definitions. There is also a list of musculoskeletal structures, diagnostic test and procedures. Finally there is a list of some diseases, conditions and movements related to the musculoskeletal system.

If you need a background on how medical terms are formed, read the article on Medical Terminology Basics. Also, the article 11 Rules for Changing Singular Terms to Plural Terms is a good article for the use of singular and plural endings. This article will begin with a review of the basic prefixes and suffixes that can be used for all body systems.

Review of Prefixes

This section contains prefixes that are used for medical terminology of most systems. Prefixes are used at the beginning of a word to modify or vary the meaning of the word. When the prefixes are detached from a term, it is followed by a hyphen (-).

PrefixesDefinition
a-, an-no, not, without, away
aut-self
brady- slow
dia-apart, through
end-, endo-within, inside
exo-outside of, without
epi- above
hyper- excessive
hypo- insufficient
inter- between
intra- middle
media-medium
medial-situated or pertaining to the middle
medi-middle
medio-within
normo- normal
per- through
peri- around
physio-, physi-related to nature or physiology
poly- many
pro-before, for, in front of, from, in behalf of, on account of
re-back, again
retro-behind, back, backward
sub-under, below, beneath, in small quantity, less than normal
syn-, sy-, syl-, sym-union or association
tachy- fast
trans- across, through, beyond, over
ultra- excess

Review of Suffixes

Below are some suffixes that can be used for medical terminology of most systems. Suffixes are placed at the end of a word root or word part to modify or vary the meaning. Suffixes can indicate a condition, disease or a procedure. When a suffix is written detached it is preceded by a hyphen (-).

SuffixesDefinition
-ac. -al, -ar, -aryPertaining to
-icPertaining to, characteristics
-ose, -ousPertaining to
-tic Pertaining to
-centesissurgical puncture as to aspirate or remove fluid
-cision process of cutting
-ectomyexcision (surgical removal or cutting out)
-grama drawing or a written record
-graphproduct of a drawing, writing or recording
-graphythe process of recording
-ia condition
-ism condition process, theory of, principle, method
-itis inflammation
-ologist one who studies
-ologystudy of
-lysisprocess of loosening, freeing, or destroying
-opsyto view
-osiscondition, status process
-otomycutting into
-ostomyformation of an opening
-plasty surgical repair
-pathy disease
-sclerosis hardening
-scope instrument for viewing
-scopyvisual examination with a lighted instrument
-sisstate of, condition
-stasis to stand, place, stop, control
-stenosisnarrowing
-tension pressure
-therapytreatment
-thoracicchest
-ule small

Word Root and Combining Vowel for the Musculokeletal System

This is a list of word roots with their combining vowel used for the musculoskeletal system.

Word RootDefinition
Arthro(o)joint
Burs(o)bursa
Carp(o)wrist
Chondr(o)cartilage
Clavicul(o)clavical
Coccyg(o)coccyx
Cost(o)rib
Crani(o)skull
Femor(o)femur
Fibul(o)fibula
Humer(o)humerus
Ili(o)ilium
Ischi(o)ischium
Mandibul(o)mandible
Maxill(o)maxilla
Metacarp(o)metacarpus
Metatars(o)metatarsus
Muscul(o)muscle
My(o)muscle
Myel(o)bone marrow
Oste(o)bone
Patell(o)patella
Pelv(o)pelvis, hipbone
Phalang(o)phalanges
Pub(o)pubis
Radi(o)radius
Sacr(o)sacrum
Scapul(o)scapula
Spondyl(o)vertebra
Stern(o)sternum
Ten(o)tendon
Tibi(o)tibia
Uln(o)ulna
Vertebr(o)vertebra

Musculoskeletal system specific suffixes and prefixes

Term Definition
Articul-joint
Axi-axis
Epi- on or upon.
-fibrous composed of fibrous tissue.
-gene that which generates
Myo-muscle
My-muscle
Ortho-feet
Oss- bone
Osteo-, oste- bone
-osteum bone
-physis growth or growing
Medical-Terminology-MS-System_Medical-Specialties

Musculoskeletal Specialties

This is a list of the specialists that diagnose and treat conditions related to the musculoskeletal system.

Term Definition
OrthopedicsOrtho- means normal, straight or to correct.
Pedic, -pedal means feet
A medical specialty that treats disorders involving the musculoskeletal system.
OrthopedistOrtho- means normal, straight or to correct.
A physician that specializes in the treatment of the musculoskeletal system.
Orthopedic SurgeryOrtho- means normal, straight or to correct.
Surgery means to treat an illness or deformity.
A branch of medicine that specializes in the treatment of the musculoskeletal system and operative procedures.
Orthopedic SurgeonOrtho- means normal, straight or to correct.
Surgeon is a physician who treats disease and injuries using operative procedures.
A physician that specializes in the musculoskeletal system and performs operative procedures.
9-Facts-About-The-Skeletal-System_Bone-Cells

The Structure and Functions of the Skeletal System

Term Definition
Axial skeleton Axi- means axis.
Axis is a line the passes through the center of the body.
Axial refers to the axis of the body.
The axial skeleton includes the skull, vertebrae, ribs and sternum. These bones form the axis of the skeleton.
Articular cartilageArticul- means joint.
Cartilage is nonvascular dense supportive tissue.
Articular cartilages is a type of hyaline connective tissue that covers the articulating surfaces of the bone. Articular cartilage is located within synovial joints.
BoneBone is a connective tissue that is dense, hard and makes up the framework of the human skeleton.
BursaBursa is a fluid-filled, fibrous sac located between some tendons and bones that act as a small cushion which allows the tendon to move over bone.
Cancellous boneCancellus means lattice.
Also called spongy bone, cancellous bone is a latticework of bony plates located at the end of long bones.
CartilageCartilage is nonvascular dense supportive tissue.
Cartilaginous jointCartilaginous refers to cartilage.
The cartilaginous joint is where two bones unite to form a slightly movable joint.
Compact boneCompact bone is the outer covering of skeletal structures. Compact bone is also known as cortical bone.
Crepitus Crepitus is a clicking sound often heard with the movement of joints.
Diaphysis-physis means growth or growing.
The diaphysis is the straight shaft of a long bone.
Epiphyseal plateThe epiphyseal plate is a thin layer of cartilage between the epiphysis, a secondary bone-forming center, and the bone shaft. The epiphyseal plates is also called the growth plate.
EpiphysisEpi- means on or upon.
-physis means growth or growing.
The epiphysis is the enlarged proximal and distal end of a long bone.
Fibrous joint-fibrous means composed of fibrous tissue.
Fibrous joints are slightly movable joint in which a fibrous tissue connects the bones. Fibrous joints are found in the skull.
Haversian systemThe Haversian system is a circular unit of bone that contains many tiny longitudinal canals in bone tissue.
JointA joint is the articulation where two bones meet.
Joint capsuleA joint capsule is a sac-like structure that encases the end of the bones.
LigamentA ligament is a flexible band of fibrous tissue that holds joints together and still allow for them to be movable. Ligament connect bone to bone.
OssificationOss- means bone.
Ossification is the formation of the bone matrix in which calcium and phosphates are bound to collagen fibers.
OsteoblastOsteo-, oste- means bone.
A blast is a cell capable of building tissue.
-blast means embryonic state of development.
Osteoblasts are the cells that lay down and secrete new bone cells for the formation of the bone.
OsteoclastOsteo-, oste- means bone.
-clast means something that breaks, causing disintegration.
Osteoclast are the major bone cells that dissolve, digest and reabsorb bone.
OsteocytesOsteo-, oste- means bone.
Cyt- means cell.
The osteocytes are bone cells responsible for the maintenance of the bone matrix. Osteocytes include the osteoblast and osteoclast.
OsteogenesisOsteo-, oste- means bone.
-gene means that which generates.
Osteogenesis is the development of bone tissue.
PeriosteumPeri- means around.
-osteum means bone.
The periosteum is a thick fibrous connective tissue that covers the bone.
RemodelingRe- means back again.
Remodeling is the process of regenerating and re-establishing the bone’s stability and strength.
Synovial fluidSynovial refers to the secretion of synovia.
Synovia is a fluid secreted by the synovial membrane which is clear and viscous.
This synovial fluid is a lubricating fluid which reduces the friction between the two bones where the joint is formed.
Synovial jointSynovial refers to the secretion of synovia.
Synovia is a fluid secreted by the synovial membrane which is clear and viscous.
Synovial joints represent the majority of the joints in the body. The joints are freely movable and allow for ease of movement between bones.
TendonTendons are cord-like bands of fibrous connective tissue that connect bone to muscle.
TrabeculaTrabecula is a fibrous cord of connective tissue which form an irregular meshwork of supportive fibers.
VertebraA vertebra is one of the bones of the spinal column.
7-Facts-About-The-Muscular-System_Types-of-Muscle

The Structure and Functions of the Muscular System

Term Definition
ActinActin is the thin filaments in muscle fibers that are pulled on by myosin filaments to cause a muscle contraction. This is one of two proteins needed for muscle contraction.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)Adenosine triphosphate is the energy source needed for muscle contraction.
Cardiac muscleCardiac refers to the heart.
A muscle is a kind of tissue composed of fibers that are able to contract causing movement of body parts.
Cardiac muscle is muscle which is striated like the skeletal muscle and under involuntary control like smooth muscle. This type of muscle is found in the heart only.
Contractile tissueContractile refers to the ability to become reduced in size or length.
Contractile tissue is tissue that has the ability to reduce in size or length in response to a stimulus.
MuscleA muscle is a kind of tissue composed of fibers that are able to contract causing movement of body parts.
MyofibrilsMyo- refers to muscle.
Fibril is small fiber that is a component of cells.
Myofibrils are bundles of myofilaments within cardiac and skeletal muscle that give the muscle its striated appearance.
MyofilamentsMyo- refers to muscle.
Filaments are fine fibers that are threadlike.
Myofilaments are threadlike structures found in bundles in striated muscle. The thick filaments are myosin and the thin filaments are actin.
MyosinMyo- refers to muscle.
Myosin is the thick filaments in muscle fibers that interacts with actin. This is one of two proteins needed for muscle contraction.
SarcolemmaSarco- refers to flesh.
-lemma means confining membrane.
Sarcolemma is a membrane that covers smooth, striated, and cardiac muscle fibers.
SarcomeresSarco- refers to flesh.
-mere means part of or a portion.
Sarcomeres are the smallest functioning unit of a myofibril.
Sarcoplasmic reticulumSarco- refers to flesh .
Sarcoplasm is the semifluid cytoplasm of muscle cells.
Reticulum means little net.
The sarcoplasmic reticulum is a network of tubules and sacs in skeletal muscle fiber that plays an important role in muscle contraction and relaxation by releasing and storing calcium ions.
Skeletal muscle (Striated muscle)Skeleton is the supporting framework of the body.
Skeletal muscle controls the voluntary movement of the body. Skeletal muscles is also striated muscle.
Smooth muscleSmooth muscle is involuntary and not under conscious control. Smooth muscle is found in the organs in the body such as the gut, the airways and also blood vessels.

Movement Classifications of the Musculoskeletal

Term Definition
AbductionAbduction is the movement away from the middle of the body.
AdductionAdduction is the movement toward the middle of the body.
CircumductionCircumduction is moving in a circular motion.
DorsiflexionDorsiflexion is the bending of the foot upward toward the shin.
EversionEversion is the movement of the sole of the foot outward away from the middle of the body.
ExtensionExtension is the straightening of the angle at the joint.
FlexionFlexion is the bending at the joint to create an angle.
HyperextensionHyperextension is an exaggerated version of extension.
InversionInversion is the movement of the sole of the foot inward toward the middle of the body.
Plantar flexionPlantar flexion is when the toes are pointed.
PronationPronation is when the forearm or hand is turned so the palm of the hand is facing downward.
RotationRotation is turning a body part on an axis. An example is turning your head from left to right.
SupinationSupination is when the forearm or hand is turned so that the palm of the hand is facing upward.

Procedures of the Musculoskeletal System

Term Definition
ArthrocentesisArthro- means joints or articulation.
-centesis means surgical puncture as to aspirate or remove fluid.
An arthrocentesis uses a needle to puncture a joint to withdraw fluid. This procedure is used to obtain samples of the synovial fluid to diagnose a condition.
ArthrographyArthro- means joints or articulation.
-graphy means the process of recording.
Arthrography is a method that uses radiography to visualize inside a joint. Also this method uses radiopaque contrast medium.
ArthroplastyArthro- means joints or articulation.
-plasty means surgical repair.
The use of surgery to restore mobility to a painful joint or one with degenerative disease by reconstruction or replacement.
ArthroscopyArthro- means joints or articulation.
-scopy means visual examination with a lighted instrument.
The use of an endoscope inserted into a small incision to visualize and examine the inside of a joint.
Bone densitometryBone is a connective tissue that is dense, hard and makes up the framework of the human skeleton.
Densitometry is a method of measuring bone density.
A bone densitometry is a method of determining the mass of the bone by measuring the absorption of radiation by the skeleton.
Bone graftBone is a connective tissue that is dense, hard and makes up the framework of the human skeleton.
A graft is an organ taken from one person and insterted into another person. Also a graft is tissue taken from the site of one person and inserted into another person or the same person.
A bone graft is the repair of a skeletal defect by using a piece of bone from one part of the body and transplanting it to another part of the body.
Bone marrowBone is a connective tissue that is dense, hard and makes up the framework of the human skeleton.
Bone marrow is a sponge like material found in the inner cavity of bones.
Bone scanBone is a connective tissue that is dense, hard and makes up the framework of the human skeleton.
A bone scan is a method that uses an image produced by the emission of radiopaque particles to visualize the bone.
Bone x-rayBone is a connective tissue that is dense, hard and makes up the framework of the human skeleton.
Bone x-rays use radiology to find a problem in the bones or joints.
Computed tomographyA computed tomography is a technique that uses radiography to produce an image of the cross section of tissue.
Dual-energy absorptiometry (DEXA)Dual-energy absorptiometry is a method used to measure bone density that uses two low dose x-ray beams at different levels to produce an image.
Electromyogram (EMG)Electro- refers to electrical.
Myo- refers to muscle.
-gram is a drawing or a written record.
An electromyogram is a recording of the electrical activity of the skeletal muscle.
Electromyography (EMG)Electro- refers to electrical
Myo- refers to muscle
-graphy is the process of recording.
An electromyography is method used to measure the action potential of muscle.
Joint x-rayJoint is the articulation between bones.
A Joint x-ray is used to reveal fluid, irregularities, spur formation, narrowing, and changes in joint structure.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)Magnetic refers to lodestone.
Resonance means to sound again.
Imaging means image.
An MRI is a procedure used to produce an image by the creation of a magnetic field to give detailed information about the bone.
Percutaneous diskectomy (also discectomy)Percutaneous means performed through the skin.
Diskectomy is excision of the intervertebral disk.
A percutaneous diskectomy is an excision of the intervertebral disk through the skin.
ProsthesisProsthesis is the replacement of a missing body part such as a limb or joint using an artificial part.

Diseases and Conditions of the Musculoskeletal System

Medical-Terminology-MS-System_Disease
Term Definition
Atonic A- refers to no, not, without, away.
-tonic refers to the quality of the muscle tone or muscle contraction.
Atonic refers to lacking normal tone as in a muscle that is flaccid.
AtrophyA- refers to no, not, without, away.
-tropy refers to having an affinity for.
Atrophy in a muscle is a decrease in the size or activity as a result of a lack of physical exercise or some type of neurological or musculoskeletal disease.
Carpal Tunnel SyndromeCarp(o) means wrist.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a painful disorder of the wrist and hand caused by the compression of the median nerve of the hand.
ClonusClonus is increased reflex activity such as the repetitive muscular contraction and relaxation that are in rapid succession.
ContractureContracture is the permanent flexion and fixation of a joint sometimes caused by atrophy and the shortening of muscle fibers.
DislocationDislocation is the displacement of a part of the body from its original position.
FasciaFasci- means a bond or band of fibrous tissue.
Fascia is a fibrous connective membrane that varies in thickness and density found in the body.
FibromyalgiaFibr(o) refers to fiber.
My- refers to muscle.
-algia refers to pain.
Fibromyalgia is a form of rheumatism characterized by musculoskeletal pain, spasms, stiffness, fatigue, and sleep disturbance.
FlaccidFlaccid means limp and without tone such as a muscle that is weak, flabby and lacking normal tone.
FractureA fracture is a traumatic injury to the bone in which the normal continuity of the bone has been disrupted.
KyphosisKyph(o)- refers to hump.
-osis refers to condition.
Kyphosis is an abnormal condition of the vertebral column in which there is an increase in the convexity in the curvature of the thoracic spine.
LordosisLord(o)- refers to bent forward
-osis refers to condition
Lordosis is an abnormal condition of the vertebral column in which there is an increase in concavity in the lumbar spine.
Muscular DystrophyMuscular refers to muscle
Dystrophin is a missing or defective protein.
Muscular Dystrophy is a genetically transmitted disease resulting from a mutation of the gene that makes the protein dystrophin that results in progressive atrophy of symmetric groups of skeletal muscles.
MyalgiaMy- refers to muscle.
-algia refers to pain.
Myalgia is muscle pain.
MyopathyMy(o) refers to muscle.
-pathy refers to disease.
Myopathy is an abnormal condition of the skeletal muscle characterized by muscle weakness and muscle wasting.
OsteoarthritisOste(o) refers to bone.
Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joints.
Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis in which one or several joints undergo degenerative changes.
Rheumatoid arthritisRheumatic refers to rheumatism.
Rheumatism is a group of inflammatory conditions of the muscles, joints, ligaments or bursae.
Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of arthritis that causes chronic inflammation, destruction and deformity of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis has been know to have an autoimmune component.
ScoliosisScolio- refers to twisted or crooked.
-osis refers to a condition.
Scoliosis is an abnormal condition of the vertebral column in which there is a lateral curvature of the spine.

Reference

Mosby’s Medical Dictionary (2017). 10th ed. St Louis, MO. Elsevier Inc.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitution for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you chose to use this information.

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