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Massage Therapy Terminology & Glossary



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Fingers; Toes  

Danger zone

(hot zone)

An area where individuals can be exposed to hazards such as sharp metal edges, broken glass, toxic substances, lethal rays, or ignition or explosion of hazardous materials.
A mnemonic for assessment in which each area of the body is evaluated for Deformities, Contusions, Abrasions, Punctures/penetrations, Burns, Tenderness, Lacerations, and Swelling.
Lack of; Down; Less; Removal of  
Dead space
The portion of the tidal volume that does not reach the alveoli and thus does not participate in gas exchange.
A nutural process in which a material that is unstable attempts to stabilize itself by changing its structure.
Deciduous (milk) teeth
The 20 temporary teeth replaced by permanent teeth; "baby" teeth.
The slowing of an object.
Decision-making capacity
Ability to understand and process information and make a choice regarding appropriate medical care.
Decompensated shock
The late stage of shock when blood pressure is falling.
Decomposition reaction
A destructive chemical reaction in which complex substances are broken down into simpler ones.
Decompression sickness
A painful condition seen in divers who ascend too quickly, in which gas, especially nitrogen, forms bubbles in blood vessels and other tissues; also called "the bends."
The process of removing or neutralizing and properly disposing of hazardous materials from equipment, patients, and rescue personnel.
Decontamination area
The designated area in a hazardous materials incident where all patients and rescuers must be decontaminated before going to another area.
Decubitus ulcers
Also known as bedsores, they are caused by the pressure of skin against a surface for long periods. These sores can range from a pink discoloration of the skin to a deep wound that may invade into bone or organs.
Dedicated line
A special telephone line that is used for specific point-to-point communications; also known as a "hotline."
Away from the surface of the body, the opposite of superficial; further inside the body and away from the skin.
Deep fascia
A coarse sheet of fibrous connective tissue that binds muscles into functional groups and forms partitions, called intermuscular septae, between muscle groups.
Deep venous thrombosis
The formation of a blood clot within the larger veins of an extremity; typically following a period of prolonged immobilization.
The communication of false information spoken or written about a person that is harmful or damaging to that person's reputation or standing in the community.
The elimination of the contents of the bowels (feces).
Defense mechanisms
Psychological strategies of relating to the world that are developed unconsciously to protect people from shame, anxiety, and other emotionally painful experiences that they are unable to handle. Denial, dissociation, projection, reaction formation, repression, displacement, intellectualization, rationalization, sublimation, compensation, and assertiveness are common mechanisms used.
To shock a fibrillating (chaotically beating) heart with specialized electrical current in an attempt to restore a normal, rhythmic beat.
Delivery of an electrical shock to the myocardium in an attempt to convert ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia to a normal rhythm.
Degenerative joint disease
The act of swallowing.
A condition resulting from excessive loss of water; loss of water from the tissues of the body.
Dehydration synthesis
Process by which a larger molecule is synthesized from smaller ones by removal of a water molecule at each site of bond formation.
Delayed stress reaction
Reaction to stress that occurs after a stressful situation.
A more or less sudden change in mental status marked by the inability to focus, think logically, and maintain attention.
Delirium tremens (DTs)
A severe withdrawal syndrome seen in alcoholics who are deprived of ethyl alcohol; characterized by restlessness, fever, sweating, disorientation, agitation, and seizures; can be fatal if untreated.
The way in which a person behaves toward others, including body language.  
The slow onset of progressive disorientation, shortened attention span, and loss of cognitive function.
The process of directing responders to return to their facilities when work at a disaster or mass-casualty incident has finished, at least for those particular responders.
Branching projections from the nerve cell body that carry signals to the cell body; the receptive portion of a nerve cell.
A defense mechanism that involves active refusal to recognize or acknowledge the full implications of an unpleasant reality. Denial bears some similarity to repression, but requires the collaboration of the conscious mind.  
The calcified tissue forming the major part of a tooth; deep to the enamel.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
Genetic material of the cell that carries the chemical "blueprint" of the body; nucleic acid found in all living cells; carries the organism's hereditary information.
Depakote (Rx)
Brand name; Depakote. Generic name; Divalproex sodium. Classified as an Antiseizure medication. It helps in the treatment of acute manic episodes of bipolar disorder or seizure disorders in the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It works by affecting chemicals in the body that may be involved in causing seizures. Clients who take Depakote may experience drowsiness, nausea, or vomiting. It is best not to use percussive treatment work. Always remain calm. Help the client on/off the table, and create a plan for seizures.
Dependent edema
Swelling in the part of the body closest to the ground, caused by collection of fluid in the tissues; a possible sign of congestive heart failure.
Dependent lividity
Blood settling to the lowest point of the body, causing discoloration of the skin.
The loss of a state of polarity; the loss of a negative charge inside the plasma membrane.
Oral questions asked of parties and witnesses under oath.
Downward or inferior movement; a persistent mood of sadness, despair, and discouragement; may be a symptom of many different mental and physical disorders, or it may be a disorder on its own.
A general term for acute or chronic skin inflammation characterized by redness, eruptions, edema, scaling, and itching. The three main types are atropic dermatities, seborrheic dermatitis, and contact dermatitis. Eczema is a form of dermatitis; an inflammation of the skin; nonspecific skin allergies.
A cutaneous (skin) section supplied by a single spinal nerve.
The inner layer of skin that contains collagen and elastin fibers, which provide much of the structure and strength of the skin, and is much thicker than the epidermis; the deep layer of the skin; composed of dense, irregular connective tissue; the inner layer of the skin, containing hair follicles, sweat glands, nerve endings, and blood vessels.
Descending tracts
Tracts that carry sensory information from the brain to the spinal cord.
Steps taken to ensure that the treatment is not turned into a sexual experience for either the practitioner or the client.  
Designated officer
The individual in the department who is charged with the responsibility of managing exposures and infection control issues.
To Bind; Tie together  
Developmental disability
Insufficient development of the brain, resulting in some level of dysfunction or impairment.
Complete; Through  
Diabetes mellitus
A metabolic disorder that results from inadequate insulin secretion; a disease caused by deficient insulin release or inadequate responsiveness to insulin, leading to inability of the body cells to use carbohydrates at a normal rate; a metabolic disorder in which the ability to metabolize carbohydrates (sugars) is impaired, usually because of a lack of insulin.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
A form of hyperglycemia in uncontrolled diabetes in which certain acids accumulate when insulin is not available.
A labeling of signs and symptoms by a licensed medical professional. The identification of the underlying cause, etiology, pathology, or nature of a set of signs and/or symptoms.
Diagonal ADduction
Movement of a limb through a diagonal plane directly across and toward the midline of the body.
Diagonal ABduction
Movement of a limb through a diagonal plane away from and across the midline of the body.
Diamond carry
A carrying technique in which one EMT is located at the head end of the stretcher or backboard, one at the foot end, and one at each side of the patient; each of two EMTs at the sides uses one hand to support the stretcher/backboard so that all are able to face forward as they walk.
The passage of blood cells through intact vessel walls into the tissues.
State of swelling; characterized by profuse sweating.
A dome-shaped sheet of muscle attached to the thoracic wall that seperates the lungs and thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity. As the chest cavity enlarges, the diaphragm moves downward and flattens to create a vacuum that allows air to flow into the lungs. As the chest contracts and the diaphragm relaxes, the diaphragm arches upward, helping air to flow out of the lungs; any portition or wall separating one area from another; a muscle that separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominopelvic cavity; a muscular dome that forms the undersurface of the thorax, separating the chest from the abdominal cavity; when the diaphragm and chest wall muscles contract air is brought into the lungs, when the diaphragm relaxes air is expelled from the lungs.
Elongated shaft of a long bone.
A freely movable synovial joint.
A period (between contractions) of relaxation of the heart during which it fills with blood; the relaxation, or period of relaxation, of the heart, especially of the ventricles.
Diastolic pressure
The pressure that remains in the arteries during the relaxing phase of the heart's cycle (diastole) when the left ventricle is at rest.
Diazepam (Rx)
Brand name; Valium. Generic name; Diazepam. Classified as a Benzodiazepine anxiolytic, skeletal muscle relaxant, anticonvulsant, and sedative. It promotes calmness and reduces muscle spasm, anxiety, and seizures in the treatment of Cerebral palsy, and Chronic fatigue syndrome. It works by enhancing the effects of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) a natural chemical made in the brain that blocks brain signals (neurotransmissions). Clients who take Valium may experience bradycardia, physical or psychological dependence, drowsiness, nausea, or vomiting. Deep tissue techniques are contraindicated, abdominal massage may help relieve constipation. Help client on/off table, and check client's alertness for a safe drive home.
That part of the forebrain between the cerebral hemispheres and the midbrain including the thalamus, the third ventricle, and the hypothalamus.
Movement of ions and molecules from an area of higher concentration to that of a lower concentration; the spreading of particles in a gas or solution with a movement toward uniform distribution of particles; a process in which molecules move from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration.
The mechanical and chemical breakdown of food from its complex form into simple molecules; the bodily process of breaking down foods chemically and mechanically; the processing of food that nourishes the individual cells of the body.
Digestive system
System that processes food into absorbable units and eliminates indigestible wastes.
Pertaining to the digits; fingers and toes.
Dihydroergotamine mesylate (Rx)
Brand name; Migranal. Generic name; Dihydroergotamine mesylate. Classified as a Cranial vasoconstrictor. It reduces symptoms of migraine and cluster headaches in the treatment of Migraine headache. It works by narrowing the blood vessels in the brain. Clients who take Migranal may experience anxiety, sweating, abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting. It is best to adjust for temperature needs, and create a calming environment.
To Enlarge, expand  
To stretch; to open; to expand.
Widening; Stretching; Expanding  
Widening of a tubular structure such as a coronary artery.
An infectious disease in which a membrane forms, lining the pharynx; this lining can severely obstruct the passage of air into the larynx.
Direct contact
Exposure or transmission of a communicable disease from one person to another by physical contact.
Direct ground lift
A lifting technique that is used for patients who are found laying supine on the ground with no suspected spinal injury.
Dirty bomb
Name given to a bomb that is used as a radiologic dispersal device.
Apart, to separate  
Litterally, double sugar; examples include sucrose and lactose.
A widespread event that disrupts community resources and functions, in turn threatening public safety, citizens' lives, and property.
The phase of a civil suit where the plaintiff and defense obtain information from each other that will enable the attorneys to have a better understanding of the case, which will assist them in negotiating a possible settlement or in preparing for trial. Discovery includes depositions, interrogatories, and demands for production of records.
To distinguish by noting differences. To unfairly treat a person or group of people differently from others, because of characteristics such as, personal beliefs, race, religion, or intelligence.  
An abnormality in functions of the body, especially when the abnormality threatens well-being.
Disease vector
An animal that spreads a disease, once infected, to another animal.
Distortions in health that result when the functions or systems are neither balanced nor working at their optimum. In Chinese medicine, disharmony can be created by the imbalance of six Pernicious Influences or the Seven Emotions; Anger, joy, sadness, grief, pensiveness, fear, and fright.
The killing of pathogenic agents by direct application of chemicals.
Disk herniation
A pathologic condition that occurs when the fibrocartilage that surrounds the intervertebral disk ruptures, releasing the nucleus that cushions the vertebrae above and below. The resultant pressure on spinal nerve roots may cause pain and damage the surrounding nerves.
Disruption of a joint in which ligaments are damaged and the bone ends are completely displaced.
Displaced fracture
A fracture in which bone fragments are separated from one another and not in anatomic alignment.
Dissecting aneurysm
A condition in which the inner layers of an artery, such as the aorta, become separated, allowing blood (at high pressures) to flow between the layers.
The means by which a terrorist will spread disease, for example, by poisoning the water supply or aerosolizing the agent into the air or ventilation system of a building.
A defense mechanism that separates ideas, feelings, information, identity, or memories that normally go together. Dissociation involves a detachment from reality (as opposed to a loss of reality) and exists on a continuum of mild (e.g., daydreams) to severe disorders.  
Far; Distant  
Farther from the center or median line or from the thorax; situated away from the point of attachment or origin or a central point; Farther from the point of attachment of a limb or origin of a structure; farther from the trunk or nearer to the free end of the extremity.
The action of pulling the spine along its length.
Distributive shock
A condition that occurs when there is widespread dilation of the small arterioles, small venules, or both.
Divalproex sodium (Rx)
Brand name; Depakote. Generic name; Divalproex sodium. Classified as an Antiseizure medication. It helps in the treatment of acute manic episodes of bipolar disorder or seizure disorders in the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It works by affecting chemicals in the body that may be involved in causing seizures. Clients who take Depakote may experience drowsiness, nausea, or vomiting. It is best not to use percussive treatment work. Always remain calm. Help the client on/off the table, and create a plan for seizures.
Bulging out of intestinal rings in small pockets at weak areas in the muscle walls, creating abdominal discomfort.
A pouch or sac in the walls of a hollow organ or structure.
Diving reflex
Slowing of the heart rate caused by submersion in cold water.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
Instructions to withhold resuscitation efforts; these can be issued by a physician after consultation with the patient or surrogate decision maker or by the medical command authority via radio communication; written documentation by a physician giving permission to medical personnel to not attempt resuscitation in the event of cardiac arrest.
The written portion of the EMT's patient interaction. This becomes part of the patient's permanent medical record.
A catecholamine found in the brain and automatic system. Generally a stimulant, dopamine is involved in emotions/moods and in regulating motor control and the executive functioning of the brain.
Back (of Body)  
Relating to the back; posterior; the posterior surface of the body, including the back of the hand or top of the foot.
Dorsal respiratory group (DRG)
A portion of the medulla oblongota where the primary respiratory pacemaker is found.
Dorsal root
One of two roots that attaches a spinal nerve to the spinal cord.
Dorsalis pedis artery
The artery on the anterior surface of the foot between the first and second metatarsals.
Dorsiflexion (dorsal flexion)
Movement of the ankle that results in the top of the foot moving toward the anterior tibia; up and down movement that includes lifting the foot so that its superior surface approaches the shin; standing on your heels
The amount of medication given on the basis of the patient's size and age.
An Ayurvedic concept that describes chemical processes in the body. The three types are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
To give  
Down syndrome
A genetic chromosomal defect that can occur during fetal development and that results in mental retardation as well as certain physical characteristics, such as a round head with a flat occiput and slanted, wide-set eyes.
Doxepin hydrochloride (Rx)
Brand name; Sinequan. Generic name; Doxepin hydrochloride. Classified as a Tricyclic Antidepressant. It relieves depression and anxiety in the treatment of Fibromyalgia. It is not known how it works. Clients who take Sinequan may experience tachycardia, drowsiness, dry mouth, or constipation. It is best to offer water, adjust positioning when needed, and help client on/off the table.
Resistance that slows a projectile, such as air.
Drip chamber
The area of the administration set where fluid accumulates so that the tubing remains filled with fluid.
Drip sets
Another name for administration sets.
To run  
The process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion or immersion in liquid.
Barrel-like containers used to store a wide variety of substances, including food-grade materials, corrocives, flammable liquids, and grease. Drums may be constructed of low-carbon steel, polyethylene, cardboard, stainless steel, nickel, or other materials.
Dual relationships
The overlapping of professional and social roles and interactions between two people. A relationship with a client other than the contractual therapeutic one, such as having a client who is also a friend, family member, or business associate.  
To lead; Carry  
A canal or passageway.
Duloxetine (Rx)
Brand name; Cymbalta. Generic name; Duloxetine. Classified as a Selective Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SSNRI) and Antidepressant. It relieves general anxiety disorders and depression in the treatment of major depressive and general anxiety disorders, and neuropathy. It works by affecting chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause depression. Clients who take Cymbalta may experience slow reaction time, dulled thinking, mild nausea, dry mouth, gas, or constipation. It is best to place a reminder call the day before the appointment if needed. Offer water and be patient during the intake interview. Abdominal massage may help relieve constipation.
The first part of the small intestine.
DuoDote auto-injector
A nerve agent antidote kit containing atropine and pralidoxime chloride; delivered as a single dose through one needle.
The ability to transmit and receive simultaneously.
Dura mater  
Dura mater
The outermost and toughest of the three membranes (meninges) covering the brain and spinal cord.
Durable power of attorney for health care
A type of advance directive executed by a competent adult that appoints another individual to make medical treatment decisions on his or her behalf in the event that the person making the appointment loses decision-making capacity.
The practitioner's obligations to her clients to act in a particular manner.  
Duty to act
A medicolegal term relating to certain personnel who either by statute or by function have a responsibility to provide care.
Duty of care
A legal requirement that a practitioner adheres to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could possibly be harmful. If a practitioner's actions don't meet this standard of care, then the acts are considered negligent, and any damages resulting may be claimed in a lawsuit for negligence.  
Dynamic equalibrium
Sense that reports on angular or rotatory movements of the head in space.
Power, strength  
Dynamic force
Force applied to an object that produces movement in or of the object.
Bad; Painful; Difficult; Abnormal  
Slurred speech.
Dysbarism injuries
Any signs and symptoms caused by the difference between the surrounding atmospheric pressure and the total gas pressure in various tissues, fluids, and cavities of the body.
Labored, difficult breathing; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.




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