Anatomy and Physiology

Definitions of keywords



The bony framework upon which the rest of the body is built. It provides attachments for the muscular system and carries and protects the cardiovascular and respiratory system. 

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Skeletal Muscle

This attaches to and moves the skeleton. It is often termed striated muscles because it has obvious stripes on it caused by the long muscle fibres of which it is composed. It is also called voluntary muscle because it is the only type of muscle under our conscious control. 

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A place on the body where two or more bones meet.

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Appendicular Skeleton

The bones of the upper and lower limbs and their girdles that join to the axial skeleton. 

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Axial Skeleton

This forms the long axis of the body and includes the bones of the skull, spine and rib cage. 

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A tough band of fibrous, slightly elastic connective tissue that attaches one bone to another. It binds the ends of bones together to prevent dislocation. 

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A very strong connective tissue that attaches skeletal muscle to bone. 

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A fibrous protein with great strength that is the main component of bone. 

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The mineral stored in bone that keeps it hard and strong. 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in bone. 

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The shaft or middle part of a long bone. 

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The end portion of a long bone.

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Bone Marrow

Connective tissue found in the spaces inside bone that is the site of blood cell production and fat storage.

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Growth Plate

The area of growing tissue near the end of long bones in children and adolescents often referred to as the epiphyseal plate. When physical maturity is reached, the growth plate is replaced by solid bone.

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Articular Cartilage

A thin layer of glassy-smooth cartilage that is quite spongy and covers the end of bones at a joint.

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Joint Cavity

space within a synovial joint that contains synovial fluid. 

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A flattened fibrous sac lines with synovial fluid that contains a thin film of synovial fluid . Its function is to prevent friction at sites in the body where ligaments, muscles, tendons or bones might rub together.

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A wedge of white fibrocartilage that improves the fit between adjacent bones ends, making the joint more stable and reducing wear and tear on joint surfaces. 

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Pad of Fat

A fatty pad that provides cushioning between the fibrous capsule and a bone or muscle. 

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Planes of Movement

A flat surface running through the body within which different types of movement can take place about different types of synovial joint. There are three main planes that describe the movement of the human body.

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Anatomical Position

An upright standing position with head, shoulders, chest, palms of hands, hips, knees and toes facing forwards.

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Towards the front of the body.

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Towards the back of the body.

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Towards the head or upper part of the body. 

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Towards the feet or the lower part of the body. 

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Towards the middle of the body.

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Towards the outside of the body.

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Point of attachment of a muscle that remains relatively fixed during muscular contraction.

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Point of attachment of a muscle that tends to move toward the origin during muscular contraction.

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Antagonistic Muscle Action

As one muscle shortens to produce movement, another muscle lengthens to allow that movement to take place. 

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Agonist Muscle

The muscle that is directly responsible for the movement at a joint. 

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Antagonist Muscle

The muscle that has an action opposite to that of the agonist and helps in the production of a coordinated movement. 

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Core Stability

The ability of your trunk to support the forces from your arms and legs during different types of physical activity. It enables joints and muscles to work in their safest and most efficient positions therefore reducing the risk of injury. 

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Rotator Cuff

The supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis muscles make up the rotator cuff. They work to stabilise the shoulder joint to prevent the larger muscles from displacing the head of the humerus during physical activity.

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Isotonic Contraction

Tension is produced in the muscle while there is a change in muscle length. It is a dynamic contraction because the joint will move. 

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Isometric Contraction

Tension is produced in the muscle but there is no change in muscle length. It is a static contraction because the joint will stay in the same position. 

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Concentric Contraction

A type of isotonic contraction that involves the muscle shortening while producing tension. 

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Eccentric Contraction

A type of isotonic contraction that involves the muscle lengthening while producing tension. 

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Muscle Fibres

A long cylindrical muscle cell. Muscle fibres are held together in bundles to make up an individual skeletal muscle. 

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Slow Twitch Muscle Fibres

A type of muscle fibre associated with aerobic work. It produces a small force over a long period of time: high resistance to fatigue. It is suited to endurance based activities, e.g. marathon. 

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Fast Twitch Muscle Fibres

A type of muscles fibre associated with anaerobic work. It produces a large force over a short period of time : low resistance to fatigue. It is suited to power-based activities, e.g. sprinting, power lifting. There are two types; fast oxidative glycolytic and fast glycolytic. FOG fibres have a slightly greater resistance to fatigue than FG fibres. 

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Aerobic Exercise

Is performed in the presence of oxygen at a submaximal intensity over a prolonged period of time, e.g. rowing.

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Anaerobic Exercise

Is performed in the absence of oxygen at a maximal intensity that can only be sustained for a short period of time due to the build up of lactic acid, e.g. sprinting. 

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Warm Up

Light aerobic exercise that takes place prior to physical activity, normally including some light exercise to elevate the heart rate, muscle core body temperature, some mobilising exercises for the joints, some stretching exercises for the muscles and connective tissue and some easy rehearsal of the skills.

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Cool Down

Low intensity aerobic exercise that takes place after physical activity and facilities the recovery process. 

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Weakening of bones caused by a reduction in bone density making them prone to fracture.

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An inactive lifestyle with little or no exercise.

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A degenerative joint disease cause by a loss of articular cartilage at the ends of long bones in a joint. It causes pain, swelling and reduced motion in your joints.

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Bone Spurs

Are small projections of bone that form around joints due to damage to the joint’s surface, most commonly caused from the onset of osteoarthritis. They limit movement and cause pain in the joint. 

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Joint Stability

This refers to the resistance offered by various musculo-skeletal tissues that surround a joint. 

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