Commonly Used Terms by Physical Therapists

AMBULATORY: the ability to walk from place to place by oneself. One can use an assistive device to help him.

ASSISTIVE DEVICE: any device which is designed, made, or adapted to assist a person to perform a particular task: crutches, cane, or walkers.

BALANCE: the ability to maintain center of gravity of a body within the base of support with minimal postural sway.

BASE OF SUPPORT: the body parts (feet, buttocks) in contact with the support surface (floor, chair).

COORDINATION: the combination of body movements created with the kinematic (spatial) and kinetic (force) parameters which result in intended actions. Such actions should be well timed, smoothly and efficiently working together using the integration of several limbs and muscle groups.

DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONE: the set of functional skills or age specific tasks that most children can do at a certain age range: rolling over, sitting up, crawling, cruising, walking, etc.

ENDURANCE: the ability to sustain low intensity movements over a period of time.

EQUILIBRIUM: the state of rest or balance due to equal action of opposing forces (muscle actions).

GAIT: the pace and manner of movement during walking.

GROSS MOTOR SKILLS: movements in functional activities using large muscle groups, such as walking, kicking, sitting upright, throwing a ball, jumping, etc.

MOTOR PLANNING (PRAXIS): the ability to conceive, organize, and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions with adequate motor and conceptual capacity.

MOVEMENT TRANSITIONS: the motor skills to transfer oneself from one position to another: from sit to stand, from squat to stand, etc.

MUSCLE TONE: The muscle’s state of excitability at rest during passive range of motion as determined by a professional.Low tone: lower than normal tone
  • High tone: higher than normal tone
  • Flaccid: neuromuscular condition of hypotonia caused by damage to the lower motor neuron
  • Spastic: neuromuscular condition of hypertonia caused by brain damage which inhibits the proper development of the upper motor neuron function

NONAMBULATORY: the inability to walk from place to place by oneself; or is only able to take a few steps which may require significant effort and/or assistance.

ORTHOSIS: a device applied to a limb to control or enhance movement, to prevent bone movement, or to prevent deformity

POSTURE: the ability to maintain upright using antigravity muscles over the base of support.

PROSTHESIS: an artificial device that replaces a missing body part.

RANGE OF MOTION: the degree of movement between two joints.
  • Active Range of Motion: the degree of movement between two joints done by the person, himself
  • Passive Range of Motion: the degree of movement between two joints done by someone else

SCHOOL BASED PHYSICAL THERAPY: a related service provided by a licenses physical therapist to an identified child in his school setting. Interventions are individually designed (IEP) with specific goals and objectives which ultimately lead to the child’s ability, as much as possible, to independently function in, navigate, access, and negotiate physical surroundings of his natural school environment.

STRENGTH: the ability to generate muscle power and actively move a joint through its range of motion against gravity with resistance applied.