Glossary of Massage Terms (A)

Accessory Movement – Movement that happens involuntarily to tissues in and around a joint during a normal movement.  This movement accompanies a specific movement, but those accessory movements can’t be repeated without the initial movement.

Abduction – Lateral movement away from the midline of the trunk or motion of a limb away from the midline.

Absolute contraindication – massage must be avoided.

Acetabulum – The rounded cavity on the external surface of the coxal bone; the head of the femur articulates with the acetabulum to form the coxal joint; the depression on the lateral pelvis where its three component bones (pubis, ischium, and ilium) join, in which the femoral head fits snugly.

Active Myofascial Triggerpoint- A focus of hyper irritability in a muscle or its fascia that is painful and refers a pattern of pain at rest or during activity.  The pattern of referred pain often follows a specific pattern for that specific muscle.  An active triggerpoint is always painful under pressure.  The muscle is shortened in contracture or spasm and is usually weak because of that state. It usually refers pain with sustained direct pressure.

Adaptation – The ability of an organism to change over time in response to a stimulus

Adhesions – Abnormal adherence of collagen fibers to surrounding structures during immobilization, following trauma, or as a complication of surgery, which restricts normal elasticity of the structures involved.

Aerobic – With oxygen.  Exercise during which the energy needed is supplied by the oxygen being breathed in.  An oxygen debt is not produced.  This type of exercise can be continued for an extended period.

Alactacid Oxygen Debt – The oxygen necessary after strenuous exercise to replenish the ATP-PC energy stores.

Amino Acids – The structural components of protein.  There are 20 amino acids with 11 being essential amino acids meaning they are not produced by the body and must be obtained through the diet.  Amino Acids pass unchanged from the intestines to the liver and into the general blood circulation from which they are absorbed by each tissue as needed to make it’s own protein.  Unused amino acids are converted into urea, a main constituent of urine.

Amphetamine – A synthetic Central Nervous System stimulant related to epinephrine (adrenaline).

Anabolic Steroids – A group of synthetic drugs that have an anabolic (protein building) effect on the body.  Used by athletes to gain more muscle mass and strength but with many adverse side effects.

Anaerobic – Without Oxygen. Exercise that demands more oxygen than the heart and lungs can supply. An oxygen debt occurs.  The exercise period and intensity is of short duration.

Ankylosis – The severe or complete loss of movement at a joint.  It can be a result of fibrous build up or bony fusion.

Approximation – Technique used in managing cramps in muscles to stimulate muscle relaxation.  Hold on to the belly of the muscle on either side of the area that is cramping and push the muscle together which shortens the muscle.

Articulation – The place of union or junction between two or more bones of the skeleton. A joint in the skeletal system that permits movement between bones.

Associated Myofascial Triggerpoint – A focus of irritability that has developed as a result of overwork, shortening contracture because of referred phenomena caused by active triggerpoint in another muscle.

Assessment – The measurement or quantification of a variable or the placement of a value on something. Assessment should not be confused with examination or evaluation.

ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) – a compound formed from the breakdown of food and stored in the cells, especially in the muscles.  When split by enzyme action, energy is produced. ATP is the last known chemical that is formed prior to the transfer of the chemical work to mechanical work.

ATP-PC System – anaerobic energy system in which ATP is formed from the breakdown of phosphocreatine (PC).  Muscles performing at a maximal effort for 10 seconds or less obtain ATP from this system.

Atrophy – Wasting away or decrease in size due to a failure, abnormality of nutrition or lack of use.

See also: Types of massage that begin with A