Simply Stated . . .Neuromuscular Terminology
Medical terminology can be a confusing morass of words that sound similar but
have different meanings — or words that sound different but mean the same
One way to simplify "Medspeak" is to break it into its basic components. In
neuromuscular diseases, those components are often Greek root words.
Here is a quick glossary to help you understand how the names of various
neuromuscular diseases arose, and the differences among them.
From the Greek words myo, meaning muscle, and pathos,
disease or suffering
Definition: any disease or abnormal condition of voluntary muscle
From the Greek words neuron, meaning nerve or sinew, and pathos,
disease or suffering
Definition: any disease of the nervous system. Amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy, in which loss of nerve cells
prevents muscles from working, are neuropathies, as are diseases in which nerve
fibers malfunction, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth and Dejerine-Sottas disease.
From the Greek words dys, meaning abnormal or faulty, and trophe,
Definition: a disorder caused by defective "nutrition" or
This term is actually a misnomer based on the wrong assumption made
many years ago that muscle was being damaged by a lack of nutrients. In modern
usage, it refers to a group of genetic myopathies in which a muscle protein is
absent, deficient or abnormal.
The disorders classified as "muscular dystrophies" are myopathies in which a
genetic defect results in structural damage to the muscle. Other myopathies
involve damage to the muscle's contraction apparatus or energy production
From the Greek words a, meaning not, and trophe,
Definition: a decrease in the size of an organ or tissue
(wasting). Common causes of diseases involving muscle atrophy are a lack of
nutrients or blood supply or loss of signals from nerve cells.
The muscle wasting or atrophy in this genetic disorder results from
loss of signals from nerve cells in the spinal cord.
From myo, meaning muscle; a, without; and sthenos,
Definition: muscle weakness or lack of strength. Today,
"myasthenia" refers specifically to muscle weakness resulting from faulty
communication between nerve and muscle at the place where nerve and muscle meet
(the neuromuscular junction).
|myotonia (adjective myotonic)
From myo, meaning muscle, and tonos, tone
Definition: inability to relax muscles after contraction
This genetic disorder involves (but isn't limited to) both myotonia
and structural damage to muscles (dystrophy).
From the Greek word myo, meaning muscle, and the Greek
suffix itis, meaning inflammation of
Definition: an inflammation of the muscle, which can result from
infection, injury, or attack by the immune system on muscle tissue