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Common Orthopaedic Terms
Common Orthopaedic Terms

Common Orthopaedic Terms

Eliminating the language barrier between medical professionals and patients is key to improving health care interaction. Your orthopaedic specialist will do their best to explain everything to you in everyday terms. However, medical professionals spend all day around this information and may forget to explain some medical terms. This can cause misunderstanding if patients do not remember or do not have time to ask for clarification.


The purpose of this article is to help you in various ways. If you are preparing for an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon, you could benefit from a review of some common orthopaedic terms and definitions. Or, if you remember a term your surgeon used but forgot its meaning, you may find this article helpful. 

Sprains and Strains

Patients often wonder about the precise difference between strains and sprains. These are both common terms used by orthopaedic specialists. Because they are similar, they are easy to mix up. Sprains are when ligaments become overstretched. The ankle is one of the most common sites of a sprain. Strains happen because muscles and tendons become torn or stretched beyond what they can bear. Strains are extremely common in hamstring muscles.

Strains and sprains are different, but they are often confused with each other. Each receives similar treatments and both involve using the R.I.C.E. method. This is another common orthopaedic term, which stands for: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Fractures and Breaks

Many orthopaedic professionals will use the words, “fracture” and “break” interchangeably. This can cause confusion because patients think that fractures and breaks are two different conditions. In reality, they are actually the same condition with different degrees of severity.

Fractures are any loss of continuity in bones, which includes complete or partial break. Breaks are just bigger bone fractures — and fractures are just small breaks. If you ever feel like you are mixing these terms up, just remember they are really the same thing in the end.


Dislocations involve your bones, muscles, and joints, and how they interconnect. Dislocations occur when a joint becomes totally displaced. Dislocations can happen in any joint but are particularly common in shoulders.


Diastasis also has to do with joints, bones, and muscles, and how they connect to each other. Diastasis involves bones that are interconnected, like the leg’s tibia and fibula. Diastasis can also involve tissues like diastasis recti. Diastasis means that your muscle tissues or bones are dislocated or separated, without having a joint connecting them.

Never Be Afraid to Ask a Question

Many people are intimidated to ask medical questions for fear of being seen as silly or uneducated. However, doctors know that the average person does not have much medical knowledge. After all, that is why we consult doctors for medical attention. Never let fear keep you from asking questions before, during, or after your appointment. Health care professionals are trained to answer your questions and help you understand your options.

If you have any unanswered questions, make sure to contact Prairie Orthopaedic. We will offer you guidance through any questions or concerns you may have. It is important to understand what your specialist is telling you and their recommendations to make the right choices for your health.