Let’s Get On The Same Page

March 22, 2022

I’m Cassandra.
Movement strategist and expert, helping to change the way we think about movement so we can enjoy healthy, pain-free bodies.
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Have you ever been researching/reading about something you are very well-versed, and end up being mortified by what you read? Either because you can tell it is not factual, or is inaccurate/incomplete? I had that exact experience earlier this week, and it brought me here.

If you aren’t familiar with me, Iet me briefly share that I am someone who has studied movement and muscles for almost half (14+ years) of my short life (36 years). You could say I am obsessed with muscles, and you would be correct! I dream about them, think about them, talk about them, question them, analyze them any and every chance I get. I have numerous degrees and certifications representing the many years of studying I’ve already done, and I still want to learn more.

So I’ll buy books at the store, and read articles online, and discuss with colleagues as often as I can. Which is why I happened to be reading this book that made me cringe. I’m not going to share the name of it, or the author, but do let me share that the reason I was so shocked is because this book was presented as being “scientific”, and yet here was the author, misusing and making up terms that are not scientific at all. As someone who has studied these terms, I can spot it, and know that the rest of their conclusions and advice may be inaccurate, too. But what about you, and others who don’t have this working knowledge? Would you buy into everything this author said- do you buy into everything another professional says- simply because it sounds technical and you don’t know any better?

I sat there baffled and desperately hoping you wouldn’t be led down the wrong path, when it occurred to me that I can help you with this. I can help teach you the terms you will read about in books, or hear your doctor/PT/chiropractor/massage therapist/other medical professional use from time to time (if they care enough about educating you).

And if you have a working knowledge of what they mean, you’ll be able to:

~Piece together all of your recovery treatments/approaches from different providers
~See if it all is consistent from provider to provider
~Ask better questions
~Ask more questions
~Know when someone is just trying to sound smart, so you can filter the rest of what they say into your “Maybe/?” box, instead of your “Absolutely/For Sure” box. (At least- this is how I sort information mentally)
~Be able to surround yourself with more qualified professionals

So, today I’m gifting you with your very own private education. A small (but mighty) introduction into the world of medical terminology and (even more specifically), movement terminology.

Those who will take the time to read this and put it into practice are the same ones who will be better able to decipher:
Fact from falsity
Exceptional from mediocre

I was taught you don’t dumb things down for people, and leave them there. You meet them where they are and help them rise to a higher level. So- let’s rise!

I’m sharing six terms with you today, but that might seem like a lot. If you need- take a break and come back later. Just make sure you do come back and finish it (*wink, wink*).

1) Anterior/Ventral

~These are terms used to describe to front of your body, or movement happening towards the front of your body.
Example 1: If you are swinging your arm in front of you, we would say you are moving your arm “anteriorly” or “ventrally”.
Example 2: If you present to a health professional with chest pain, we would say you have “anterior/ventral thoracic pain”. (Don’t worry about knowing the definition of thoracic yet. I’ll include it in your next lesson).

*Important Note: Ventral is often used only to describe abdominal-related occurrence or movement (rather than movement or occurrence related to the front of the body as a whole). Movement or occurrence in any other area of the body (front of the arm, front of the leg, front of the pelvis, etc.) will typically only be referred to as “anterior”, not “ventral”.

2) Posterior/Dorsal

~This describes the very opposite- the back of your body, or moving towards the back of your body
Example 1: To continue with the arm swing, when you are swinging it behind you, we would say you are moving your arm “posteriorly” or “dorsally”.
Example 2: If you come to a health professional with low back pain, they will likely notate it as “posterior lumbar pain”.

*Important note: Medical professionals do NOT say that you have moved frontally or backily. If you see or hear someone use these terms, it’s a red flag that should make you start questioning the rest of what they have to say. And just like with “ventrally”, “dorsally” will only be used to reference the back of the trunk (meaning from the shoulders to the waist). Any reference to the back of the arms, neck, or legs will usually be termed “posterior/posteriorly”

3) Abduction

~This term references moving a limb AWAY FROM the middle of your body.
Example: If you “swing” your arm out to your side/up towards your shoulder, we would say you have “abducted your shoulder” (the shoulder is where this particular movement is created, and we reference movement based on the joint where it begins).

4) Adduction

~This is the counterpart to abduction. And you may already be able to guess that it means the opposite of abduction. Here- you are moving a limb TOWARDS your body.
Example: If you’re moving your arm (that is out by your side/away from your body, at shoulder-level) down and towards your side, we would say you are “adducting your shoulder” (again, because your shoulder is where this movement begins).

Important note: I made a point of highlighting that, in the case of your arm, bringing it DOWN towards your body (rather than ACROSS towards your body) is termed “adduction”. Swinging your arm towards/across your chest (which is technically still moving it closer to your body), actually has a different movement reference/term, which we’ll talk about another time.

5) Medial/Internal Rotation

~These terms describe rotation happening towards your body.
Example: Using your arm again, if you were to hold it straight by your side, fingertips pointing towards the ground, and you roll your elbow/shoulder inward/towards your body (still keeping your arm by your side), we would say you are rotating your arm “medially” or “internally”.

6) Lateral/External Rotation

~These are to describe rotation away from your body.
Example: Just like above, if your arm is straight by your side and you roll your elbow/shoulder/hand outward/away from your body, we would say you are rotating your arm “laterally” or “externally”.

What is rotation?
Rotation is a term used to describe movement that creates a “roll” in the joint. When you “roll” your leg or arm in towards your body, that is rotation. When you “swing” your leg in (like a pendulum) towards your body, that is not.

A couple more points here:

Can you do both movements (a roll AND a swing) at the same time? ABSOLUTELY.
Let’s say that you are swinging your right arm away from your body, up to shoulder-height, and at the same time, you roll you shoulder inward. In this instance, we would say you have “abducted AND medially/internally rotated the joint”.

Do you always do both movements (a roll and swing) together? NO.
Each person moves their body in a way that is unique to them. Which is why it’s so important (especially when you are working with a movement specialist) to work with one who can identify the subtleties of all your movements.

Do all healthcare professionals use these terms?
YES! At least, they should. This is how we can communicate with each other to know exactly what is going on, and where. It’s the same for programmers who have their own lingo, and mechanics who have their own lingo. We have this verbage to help keep everything cohesive from research to application.

I hope this was insightful and that you feel more empowered, like you can take better ownership of your (movement) health, at least, after you’ve practiced a few times. And I truly hope it leads you to your best life much sooner!

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