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Spinalnet - Spinal Cord Injuries glossary
Category: Health and Medicine > Spinal Cord Injuries
Date & country: 20/11/2007, UK
Words: 568


Motor
Describes muscles or the ability to move. Motor nerves are the nerves that send messages away from the brain and spinal cord towards muscles or other destinations in the body.

Motor cortex
The area of the brain that controls voluntary movement.

Motor function
Usually refers to the ability to move. However, it may also be used to describe how muscles that are not directly involved in body movement are working, such as those found in the walls of blood vessels and the digestive tract. It may also be used to refer to the activity of the nerves (motor nerves) that send messages away from the brain and spina…

Motor nerve
A nerve that passes information from the brain and/or spinal cord to a muscle or gland around the body.

Mucus
The protective layer of gel-like fluid covering many internal body surfaces, such as the linings of the gut and breathing tubes.

Muscle fibre electrical activity
A measure of the condition of a muscle, using equipment that monitors the muscle`s electrical activity (i.e., the waves of electrical messages that travel across the muscle to trigger it to contract).

Muscle relaxants
Drugs that promote the relaxation of body muscles. They may be used to treat muscle spasms and other disorders of the nervous system.

Muscle tone
The background level of contraction that is seen in a resting muscle.

Muscle wasting
The loss of muscle, perhaps as a result of lack of use. As the muscle becomes smaller, it also becomes weaker.

Myelinated axons
A nerve cell in which its long thread-like extension (axon) is covered in a layer of white, fatty, insulating material called myelin. This covering makes impulses travel along the nerve cells more quickly.

Narcotic analgesics
A group of pain-relieving drugs that are frequently abused because of their ability to generate feelings of elation.

Nasal spray
Device that is used to spray a fine mist of liquid into the nose.

Nasoduodenal tube
A tube inserted through the nostril, down the throat and through the stomach, into the duodenum (part of the small intestine). This can be used to drain off the contents of the small intestine or to deliver food to it.

Nasogastric tube
A tube inserted through the nostril, down the throat and into the stomach. It is used to drain off stomach contents or to deliver food to the stomach.

Natural methods
When referring to contraception, this term refers to techniques that do not require the use of any external device or medication. They rely on the woman being able to calculate when her egg is released every month and therefore when she is fertile. If sex takes place outside these fertile times, pregnancy should not occur.

Nerve fibre
The long thread-like outgrowth/extension of a nerve cell that carries messages away from the main part of the cell (the swelling called the cell body). Each nerve cell has one nerve fibre, which can travel long distances through the body, before passing on its message – either to other nerve cells, or to the message`s final destination, such as the…

Nerve impulse
The electrical signal that travels along a nerve to pass a message from one area of the body to another.

Nerve root pain
Type of pain that is due to damage to the areas (pathways) where the nerves enter and exit the spinal cord.

Nervous system
The network of thread-like nerves that make up the brain, spinal cord and that run throughout the rest of the body. The nervous system controls the activities of the body, and produces thought, emotions and sensations. The nerves send information from the brain (the body`s control centre) to the rest of the body – instructing action such as movemen…

Neurogenic pain
Pain due to damage to the nervous system itself.

Neurological
Related to the nervous system. E.g., neurological assessment refers to looking into the way in which the nervous system is working.

Neutralise
The process of removing any acidity (or alkalinity). Acidity is measured using pH. To neutralise something is to make it pH 7 – that is the same pH as pure water.

Nicotine
Addictive drug that is found in tobacco, e.g., in cigarettes.

Non-allergenic
A substance that does not cause allergic reactions.

Non-contractile
Also called a flaccid bladder. This refers to when the muscles in the bladder wall are limp and not able to contract, so that the bladder is not able to empty itself automatically.

Non-invasive
A medical procedure that does not involve any tools that break the skin, or physically enter the body. Examples of non-invasive treatment/investigations include X-rays, hearing aids and use of external splints.

Nostrils
The two openings of the nose that lead to the nasal cavity (the space inside the nose).

Obese
Describes someone who is excessively fat. The term is usually used to describe people who are over 20% heavier than the recommended weight for their height/build.

Occupational therapists
Person whose job involves making a programme of activities that are designed to help an individual cope better with daily tasks and functions – especially following an accident or injury. They also provide advice on adaptations to the home that may help with daily functioning.

Oedema
Swelling due to build-up of fluid within a body tissue.

Oesophagus
The muscle-walled tube, sometimes called the gullet, which connects the back of the mouth to the stomach.

Oestrogen
Hormone that controls female sexual development.

Oliguria
An abnormal reduction in the volume of urine produced.

Oral contraceptives
Method of preventing pregnancy that is supplied as a drug which can be taken by mouth.

Organ
A structure in the body that is responsible for carrying out a particular job. For example, the heart (pumps blood around the body), the kidneys (filter the blood), the lungs (provides the body with oxygen).

Organism
Any living thing. It may be a single cell, such as bacteria, or many cells, such as in plants and animals.

Orgasm
Feeling of intense pleasure that occurs at the climax of sexual activity.

Orthosis
Any type of physical support for the body, which may be used for a broken bone, deformity or paralysis. For example, braces (e.g. minerva brace, halo brace) and splints used to hold the spine in place after a fracture. Plural: Orthoses

Osteoarthritis
Disease of the joints, caused by the wearing away of the smooth tissue (cartilage) that covers the ends of the bones, or by abnormal bone growth at the joint.

Osteoporosis
A medical condition that involves weakening of bones, so they become brittle and prone to breakages.

Out-patient
Patient that is assessed or treated by a hospital on a visiting basis, i.e., they are not resident within the hospital.

Ovaries
Pair of female reproductive organs that produce eggs (ova) and produce female hormones. The ovaries are located in the abdomen, one on each side of the womb (uterus).

Overactive closure mechanism
When referring to the bladder, this means that the valves that prevent urine flowing out of the bladder work too much, and stop the urine from leaving the bladder.

Oxygenated
Referring to a substance that is rich in oxygen, e.g., the blood.

Palpation
Gently pressing on the surface of the body to feel the organs/tissue underneath. For example, feeling the chest to assess chest movements during breathing.

Pancreas
Gland that is positioned behind the stomach. The pancreas produces enzymes that are used in digestion, and also produces the hormones insulin and glucagon, which help to control the body`s blood sugar level.

Paralysis
The complete or incomplete loss of ability to control and move muscles.

Paralytic ileus
The build up of pressure in the small intestine that can occur in the early stages after a spinal cord injury. Symptoms include absence of normal bowel sounds and visible swelling of the abdomen. It can cause vomiting or force the stomach contents up into the airways.

Paraplegia
Describes complete or incomplete paralysis, affecting the legs and possibly also the trunk, but not the arms. The extent to which the trunk is affected depends on the level of spinal cord injury. Paraplegia is the result of damage to the cord at T1 and below.

Parasympathetic nervous system
A subdivision of the body`s nervous system that is automatic (not consciously controlled) and is involved in regulating the routine functions of the body, such as heartbeat, digestion, sleeping.

Passive
Movement is not brought about by the person`s own efforts. Instead another person, e.g., a physiotherapist, moves the parts of the body in question. This can be used to keep muscles and joints working in people with nerve problems that prevent voluntary movement, such as in spinal cord injury.

Penetrative sex
Sex that involves the male penis fully entering the female vagina.

Penis
Male organ through which urination takes place. The penis is mainly made up of erectile tissue, and when the penis becomes erect (rigid) it can then act as a sexual organ and release fluid containing sperm into the female.

Percussion
Tapping the surface of the body to assess the organs/tissue beneath it. For example, tapping the chest and listening to the sounds produced. Normal lung tissue sounds hollow, but if the lung tissue is full of mucus, blood or other fluid, then it sounds more solid.

Percussion drainage
Involves removing unwanted fluids (e.g., mucus) that have built up in the airways. It uses strong vibration or clapping on the chest walls to help dislodge them.

Perianal
The area around the anus.

Perineal
Referring to the region of the body between the anus and the opening of the urethra.

Perineum
The area behind the genitals and in front of the anus.

Peripheral nervous system
All the nerves in the body that lie outside of the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system). It carries messages from all over the body to the central nervous system and vice versa.

Peristalsis
A wave-like movement that travels along some of the hollow tubes in the body, such as the digestive tract. It is brought about by the coordinated contraction and relaxation of muscles in the walls of the hollow tubes, and serves to move material through the tubes in a specific direction. It is an involuntary (subconscious) process.

Peritoneal dialysis
Peritoneal dialysis is a method used to filter the blood when the kidneys are not working properly. It involves passing a special fluid into the body`s abdomen. The waste products pass from the blood, through a membrane lining the inside of the abdomen, into the special fluid, which can then be drained from the body. One type of peritoneal dialysis…

Phantom pain
Pain that appears to come from an area where pain cannot actually be sensed, e.g., from an amputated limb, or below the level of an SCI.

Pituitary gland
The ‘master` gland of the body, which produces hormones, e.g., human growth hormone, and affects a wide range of body functions.

Plethysmography
Method used to find problems with blood flow in the body. It works by detecting the electrical energy generated by blood flow.

Pneumonia
An infection that occurs deep within the lungs. It causes fluid to build up in the lungs, making them heavy and less spongy, and therefore making it more difficult to breathe.

Polysaccharide bead dressings
Type of wound dressing that contains water-absorbent granules/beads. Natural movement of the dressing on the wound helps the beads to pick up any foreign material or dead tissue, which is therefore removed during dressing changes.

Pooling
The collection/accumulation of fluid (e.g., blood) in one place.

Postmenopausal
Describes women who can no longer have children because they have undergone the menopause.

Postoperatively
Refers to an event that occurs at some point after an operation.

Postural drainage
Uses gravity to help remove lung secretions, e.g., mucus. The person is tilted by lowering the top of the bed by about 45cm and then placed in different positions for short periods.

Pressure sores
An area of skin that has died due to prolonged pressure cutting off its normal blood supply. The pressure is usually due to long periods of immobility and lack of pressure relief. The sores can be painful and slow to heal.

Progesterone
Female reproductive hormone that is produced in the ovaries.

Progressive damage
Damage that develops over time.

Proprioception
The ability to sense the three-dimensional position of a limb.

Prostate gland
A gland around the neck of the bladder in males that produces fluid for release during sexual activity.

Protein deficiency
Lack of protein – especially in the diet.

Proteins
Proteins are substances that are essential parts of the body. For example, they form the structural material of muscles, tissues and organs. In addition, enzymes are proteins, as are many hormones. Proteins are required in the diet (from foods such as meat and dairy products) so that they can be broken down by digestion, absorbed and then rebuilt i…

Proton pump inhibitors
Drugs that reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach by blocking the action of the ‘pump` that moves the acidic particles into the stomach.

Psychological
Relating to the mind – thoughts and behaviour.

Psychosocial
A combination of psychological and social factors.

Pulmonary embolism
A blood clot (solid mass of blood) that blocks one or more of the blood vessels in the lungs. It can be life-threatening.

Pulse oximetry
This is a simple method of measuring the amount of oxygen in the blood. It consists of a probe that is attached to the person`s finger or ear lobe. This probe is then connected up to a computer that will display the amount of oxygen in the blood and the pulse rate. It can be used to detect and provide warnings about low levels of oxygen before any …

Pyrexia
Medical term meaning fever.

Radiological
Describes the use of X-rays to create images of inside the body, particularly the bones.

Realignment
The adjustment of broken bones into their correct position.

Rebound hypotension
Low blood pressure that occurs when treatment for raised blood pressure has lowered it so far that it falls below the normal range.

Rectal
Relating to the rectum – part of the large intestine (large bowel).

Rectal muscles
Muscles in the wall of the rectum (end of the bowel).

Rectal prolapse
The inside lining of the rectum – pink moist tissue – becomes visible on the outside, due to loss of muscle tone around the rectum and anus.

Rectal stimulation
Stimulation of the muscles in the walls of the rectum (bowel) by inserting a gloved, lubricated finger through the anus – aimed at encouraging the passing of stools.

Rectum
The end part of the large intestine (bowel) that is found immediately inside the anus. It receives stools from higher up the digestive tract and stores them before defecation (process of stools leaving the body through the anus).

Recurring-recurrent
Repeated occurrence of something, e.g., a medical condition such as urinary tract infection.

Red blood cells
Disc-like cells that are present in the blood and which contain haemoglobin (the red pigment that transports oxygen around the body). Red blood cells make up about 45% of the volume of the blood.

Reflex
An automatic, involuntary response of the body to a trigger, e.g., blinking when an object moves too close to the eye, or moving a hand away from a hot object. It involves a simple pathway of nerve impulses. The brain is not necessarily conscious of the response that has taken place.

Reflex (bladder) emptying
Automatic emptying of the bladder in response to increasing urine pressure within the bladder.

Reflex bladder
Term describing a bladder in which the automatic (reflex) contraction still takes place following an SCI, although voluntary control over emptying is lost.

Reflex bowel
Term describing a bowel (e.g., following an SCI) in which automatic (reflex) contractions still take place, moving the stools along the bowel towards the outside. However, voluntary control over the removal of the stools is lost.

Reflex contraction
Automatic (involuntary) contraction of muscles. In the case of the muscle in the bladder wall, an automatic ‘reflex` contraction occurs when it becomes full of urine, in order to push urine out of the bladder.

Reflex voiding centre
Part of the spinal cord (found in the sacral region) involved in ‘automatic` or reflex urination in response to bladder fullness.

Reflexology
Involves massaging specific areas of the foot with the aim of restoring the body`s overall energy balance, and promoting the removal of toxic substances. Reflexologists believe that areas of the foot correspond to particular areas of the body, and the massage can help to calm or stimulate the nervous system, open the airways, and improve communicat…