By Jay P Vanden Heuvel Ph.D., IMD, DHS

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone on the planet spoke the same language? What if we all used the same slang and references? The same dialect? Well we don’t.

A different language makes global communication difficult. It becomes a deterrent to business. It can cause great political rift and problems with explanations. The same applies to the language of medicine. What if you could speak the same language as your Medical Doctor? How much easier it would be to explain your pain and symptoms? Describe in their language exactly the location of an anomaly. We could reduce clinical errors and speed up diagnosis. The benefits would be very helpful to all of us. Oh, if only we could speak the same language as our physicians.

Well you can. But before you stop reading this and think, “no, that is way too difficult” keep in mind this is just a simple discussion of terminology, not an exam. The idea is not to become a Doctor of Medicine but to have a better idea what all these diagnostic words mean. One who better understands anatomical reference.

It can help you to know what your shinbone is called or to know what the name of that muscle is that has always been bothering you. To maybe help identify an organ or system you’re dealing with.

To do this, first become a little bit more familiar with the terminology or language the medical community uses. Might even become better at describing concerns to other health care practitioners. Might become better at understanding some else that needs natural help guidance. Even get a better understanding of Anatomy and Physiology. It is not complicated; it is just a foreign language to most of us.

Once you learn a few rules of the language, we all can effectively communicate the health field.

After all, how can you survive or travel in Mexico when you can’t speak Spanish? If you can speak some Spanish, it makes the trip more worthwhile. You can find a bathroom, water, food, hotels etc. The same applies to baffling medical terminology. Speak some of the language and health care travels become more pleasurable.

There are many classes held locally and many books that help you decipher the language. The best way, of course is through a classroom instruction. Through repetition. Repetition is the mother of retention.

I have taught many classes in basic Anatomy, Physiology, and Terminology in my 30 years of study. Especially how it relates to Natural Health. Learning the basics will not come without some effort, but if you can keep it simple, it will be easier to use and speak.

Back to the reason for learning this language. Is it a Tibia bone or a shinbone? Most of us call this bone a “shin” which is a slang term for that bone. The medical term for this bone is Tibia (tib’e-ah). It is derived from ancient language like Greek and Latin. This ancient language word Tibia describes the lower and larger bone below the knee that descends to the ankle. Understand that this bone was called a Tibia long before ever being called a shinbone.

Anatomy, or the study of structure, uses these original terms today. Much of our medical terminology is based on this original language.

We combine words in this language with things like a prefix, word root, and suffix. A beginning, middle, and an end. They connect the ancient terms, which defines this language. Some terms will use a word root and suffix only or just a word root. Tibia is a word root describing what bone we are talking about. If we were to change it to Tibial, it becomes an adjective. This is based off proper English and grammar.

To keep it simple, if you learn the word roots, prefixes and suffixes, you can then understand the language! An example is “Tonsillectomy”.

This medical term is comprised of the word root “Tonsil” (a mass of lymph tissue usually noted at the back of the throat area) and a suffix “-ectomy” (meaning excision). If you read the word from right to left, suffix followed by a word root, it says “Excision of Tonsil”. Simple? It is, if you know what the terms mean. That IS the basis for learning terminology. By the way, ology means “to study”, so in this case, we are “studying terms”. Get it? It helps to understand the language a little bit more.

Once you have a better idea of Terminology, the next step is studying Anatomy and Physiology. It will make it not so foreign.

Anatomy is a science dealing with form and structure of living organisms like you (I assume you are living or you wouldn’t be reading this). Physiology is the study of function (or nature). This is the next part of what seems a very foreign language at times. But as explained, if you can understand how the language is formed and what the terms are, you can speak it. It is beyond the scope of this article to list word roots and suffixes but once you learn a few, you start to recognize the simplicity better. Let us try some examples to get your interest up. Take a diagnostic term like Fibromyalgia. Remember to read it from right to left.

The suffix –algia means pain. The middle word root my (myo-) means muscle, the other word root fibro means fibrous tissue or connective tissue. So, if you read the word Fibromyalgia from right to left it denotes (RIGHT TO LEFT) “pain in the muscles and fibrous or connective tissue”.

Try this one: Arthritis. The suffix is “-itis”. It refers to inflammation. The word root Arthro means joint. Arthritis simply refers “inflammation of the joints”. Sometimes the word root Osteo, which means bone, is added before Arthro to denote Osteoarthritis. Read from right to left “inflammation of the joint/bone”. Hopefully you are getting the idea. You now are beginning to understand the language.

 The only thing left is to make sure one memorizes these terms. Once you have the terms memorized, you can understand with more clarity the language your practitioner is using. I guess the saying “it’s all Greek to me” came from people not understanding this Doctor talk. If this article captures your imagination and interest, seek out a proper classroom instruction with an emphasis on repetition. It will make this language sound more like “English” to you.

Learning a new language with syntax can be fun. It will help you to become better informed about your body and sound more intelligent. Instead of saying “I suffer from shin splints”, you’ll find yourself saying, “I suffer from Tibia splints”. Or instead of saying “I broke my collar bone”, it would be correct to say “I have a fractured Clavicle”. Then again, you may not want to be known as a person who is a proctalgic.