If you aspire to work in the complex and competitive world of healthcare, it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with the medical terminology that clinicians use. An extensive understanding of medical language will serve you well when applying for healthcare graduate programs, preparing for exams and assessments, and keeping pace with your assigned physicians during volunteer activities, internships, and scribing jobs. At Elite Medical Scribes, we take pride in supporting the careers of future clinicians across the nation by providing them with unrivaled counsel, resources, and opportunities to gain professional experience by scribing for some of the country’s most reputable healthcare organizations. Today, we’ll be introducing you to a host of terms to help you expand your medical vocabulary.
Medical Terms for Anatomical Locations and Direction
The following medical vocabulary terms pertain to various areas of the body and the direction of limbs. Clinicians often use these to pinpoint abnormalities in how limbs are positioned and specify anatomical locations that need to be operated on or treated. To assist you with the process of absorbing all of this new terminology, we’ll be providing you with simple memorization tricks for the more difficult words.
- Abduction: The movement of a limb away from the midline of the body. The opposite of adduction.
- Adduction: The movement of a limb toward the midline of the body. The opposite of abduction.
Memorization Tip: Many students who are new to medical terminology struggle with telling these words apart because of how similar they look and sound. Luckily, there’s a very simple trick to remember which means which. Abduction can also refer to the act of taking someone away against their will. If you can train yourself to associate abduction with away, you’ll never mix up these two terms again.
- Anatomical position: Standing erect with arms at the side and the palms of the hands turned forward. This pose is often used as a reference when describing the relation of body parts to one another.
- Anterior: Nearer to the front. Used in reference to components of the body that are situated at its front or close to the head.
- Ventral: Identical to anterior. Refers to the front of the human body.
- Deep: Refers to an aspect or abnormality of the human body that is farther from the surface or further into the body. For example, bones are deep to the skin. The opposite of superficial.
- Superficial: Refers to an aspect or abnormality of the human body that is nearer to the surface or shallow. For example, paper cuts and mild abrasions are superficial wounds. The opposite of deep.
- Distal: Refers to an aspect or abnormality of the human body that is farther away from the midline or situated away from the body’s center. The further away a limb or organ is from the midline, the more distal it is. The opposite of proximal.
- Proximal: Refers to an aspect or abnormality of the human body that is closer to the midline or situated closely to the body’s center. The closer a limb or organ is to the midline, the more proximal it is. The opposite of distal.
Memorization Tip: These terms are relatively easy to remember if you associate distal with distant and proximal with proximity. When two things are distant, they are far apart from each other. When two things are within proximity of each other, they are close to each other.
- Dorsiflexion: This term refers to an upward flexion (the act of bending) of the foot. Occurs when the foot moves toward the leg. The opposite of plantarflexion.
- Plantarflexion: This term refers to a downward flexion (the act of bending) of the foot. Occurs when the foot moves away from the leg. The opposite of dorsiflexion.
Memorization Tip: When you plant a seed, you have to dig downward into the ground first. Plantarflexion (the term with the word plant in it) is the act of bending the foot downward. From there, just remember that dorsiflexion is the opposite action of plantarflexion.
- Eversion: Refers to the condition of the foot being turned or rotated outward, moving its forepart away from the midline of the body. The opposite of inverted.
- Inversion: Refers to the condition of the foot being turned or rotated inward, moving its forepart toward the midline of the body. The opposite of eversion.
Memorization Tip: Associate inversion with the word inward. Inverting a foot is the act of turning it inward and toward the midline. Eversion is just the opposite of this action.
- Extension: Refers to the act of straightening or extending a flexed limb. For example, a clinician might extend the arm of a patient to examine it more closely.
- External: Refers to the outside. This term may be used to describe the act of turning a limb outward (an external rotation of the leg).
- Flexion: Refers to the act of bending or the condition of being bent (decrease in joint angle).
- Inferior: Refers to aspects or abnormalities of the body that are lower, farther from the crown of the head, or closer to the feet. For example, the human liver is inferior to the lungs. The opposite of superior.
- Superior: Refers to aspects or abnormalities of the body that are upper, nearer to the crown of head, or situated upward in comparison to a designated reference point. For example, the human brain is superior to the heart. The opposite of inferior.
Memorization Tip: Associate the head or the brain with superiority. Human beings are the dominant mammals on this planet because of our superior brains. The further away an organ or component of the body is from the brain, the more inferior it is.
- Lateral: Refers to the side of the body that is farther from its midline (middle or center). The opposite of medial.
- Medial: Refers to the side of the body that is nearer to its midline (middle or center). The opposite of lateral.
Memorization Tip: Associate medial with median. A median point is situated in the middle of something. The medial side of the body is closest to its middle. Lateral is just the opposite of medial.
- Levator: Generally defined as that which rises. Clinicians usually use this term to refer to a muscle whose contraction causes a part of the body to rise up.
Memorization Tip: Associate levator with the act of levitation. When something levitates, it rises up off the ground and into the air.
- Internal: Refers to aspects or abnormalities of the human body that are situated inside of it. For example, the liver is an internal organ.
- Palmar: Refers to aspects or abnormalities of the human body that pertain to the palm (the grasping side) of the hand. May also be used to refer to the palm side of the body.
- Volar: Identical to palmar. Refers to the palm side of the hand or body.
- Plantar: Refers to the sole side of the foot. For example, plantar warts are bumps that occur on the undersurface of feet.
- Posterior: Refers to aspects or abnormalities of the human body located near or on the back.
- Dorsal: Identical to posterior. Refers to things that are near or on the back (or posterior part) of the human body.
Memorization Tip: Associate dorsal with the dorsal fins of sharks and whales. A shark’s dorsal fin is located directly on its back.
- Prone: Refers to a horizontal body position where its front side is facing downward. For example, to lie prone is to lie on the ground face down. The opposite of supine.
- Supine: Refers to a horizontal body position where its front side is facing upward. For example, a body that is supine is lying face up. The opposite of prone.
Memorization Tip: Associate supine with sunshine. When you are supine, you can enjoy the feeling of sunshine on your face and rest of your body’s front side. Prone is just the opposite of supine.
Effectively Studying Medical Terms
Now that you have a healthy selection of medical terms to learn, it’s time to develop an effective study system. We recommend that you write each of the terms above onto flashcards and test your comprehension with the help of a friend or fellow student. Each of us learns differently, so feel free to search online for more creative ways to study these vocabulary words as well.
Support Your Professional Growth With Elite Medical Scribes
Interested in expanding your medical vocabulary even further? Next time, we’ll be taking a look at general medical terminology. Be sure to keep a close eye on our blog for the next entry in this series and other articles on the latest news and innovations in the medical scribe industry and patient care!
If you have any questions about Elite Medical Scribes or are interested in launching into your medical career by working as a scribe, then call or message us today. We would be happy to speak with you and connect you with any information or resources you need.