Taxing misnomers

Taxing misnomers

Today I shall talk a bit about an irking bit of my job. As a doctor, I have vowed to educate patients as part of my profession; as most chronic conditions like arthritis involve an understanding from the patients’ end to understand the sometimes less then fast-acting treatment strategies like physiotherapy and lifestyle modifications.

On most clinic days I find myself engrossed in lengthy conversation about the basis of the disease of cartilage, bone, nerves and ligaments; only to get faces twisted in bafflement. On occasion, I even get an interjection like “ah ok, the nerve” when in reality we would have been talking about a tendon all along.

So here is a list of body parts we need to be mindful of when we are trying to understand orthopaedic ailments:

Bone – is an important organ that is a reserve for essential minerals like calcium and phosphate. It also serves as a skeleton for locomotion but also serves for muscle attachment to bring about motion. Bone groups like the ribs and skull also serve to protect delicate organs inside!

Joint – is an articulating junction between two bone ends. they can be highly mobile, like in the shoulder; or relatively immobile like in the three big bones making up the bony pelvis (which is commonly thought of as a solid bony ring).

Cartilage – many organs in the body like heart valves, growing bones, and, very importantly, the end of bones are made of cartilage. Joint cartilage is important in decreasing friction in the moving bits of the joint. When this starts to wear, we coin the condition arthrosis (Arthri~tis means; Arthro~ joints; itis~ inflamed which is one way of development of arthrosis).

Ligaments – are strong fibrous condensations between bones to keep them in close proximity to prevent dislocation. When these are injured you get abnormal movements in joints and may lead to luxations (partial separation) or dislocations (complete separation) of bony ends.

Muscles – as mentioned above, these are the ‘motors’ that bring about movements across joints. They originate from one bone and normally insert into another distant bone by means of a tendon (acting as a rope) into another bone.

Tendons – These are the ‘ropes’ linking muscle bellies (moving bit of muscle) to the distant bone. Occasionally these tendons form a cuff, as in the shoulder which we term the ‘rotator cuff’ which envelopes the head of the arm bone called humerus.

Nerves – these are the ‘wires’ linking the brain / Spinal cord (which is itself a nerve) to the muscles for movement. They also serve to pass on sensory information from sense organs (eyes, skin, joint movement, hearing and taste) back to the brain. So nerve plexuses (networks) are the circuitry of the body. These nerves may be pinched in various areas giving rise to pain, hypersensitivity or even paralysis.

I hope that this has served to shed some light on common misnomers. Feel free to share if you think you have found this helpful or if you know that person who commonly confuses these terms!! I shall be referring to this in future posts – so stay tuned.

Thank you for listening!

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