More Fun with Medical Terms!

More Fun with Medical Terms!

Walking involves: 1. moving your hips and thighs backwards as you push off, 2. moving your legs forward, 3. striking the floor with your foot in a heel to toe action and 4. shifting your weight as you move from one leg to the other.

A ton of muscles, with fantastical, sometimes ridiculous, often overly-complicated, names are used in this process. Such as the following three muscles that make up the hamstrings:

semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris
the first two terms
aren’t that hard to figure out how to pronounce
so I’ll focus on the third.
I’d like to say that the femoris in biceps femoris is pronounced: fee moor iss
like some sort of Harry Potter spell.
wave your wand: BICEPS FEEMOORISSSS!
or better yet: BICEPS FEENORMISS! (for really big biceps)
I’d like to say that
but I can’t
because it’s pronounced: femme a ris

semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris
wait, you might ask
and I did
and then looked it up,
we have biceps in our hamstrings?
in fact
biceps is a general term for a skeletal muscle with two “heads,”
or points of origin.
when we, and by we I mean me
and anyone else who isn’t a doctor or a medical student or really into anatomy for whatever reason,
think of biceps, we’re thinking of
biceps brachii
pronounced: brackey or, my preference, bracky eye.
looking it up online,
I discovered that biceps bracky eye can actually have more heads!
up to seven “have been reported”!
is that true?
and what causes these extra heads?
do each of these heads have bracky eyes
that stare at you when you’re wearing a sleeveless shirt?

biceps femoris
There’s a nice cadence to these three
semi tendi no sus
/ ♫ ♫ ♩ ♩
semi membra no sus/ ♫ ♫ ♩ ♩
bi ceps fem o ris/ ♩ ♩ ♪♪♪

semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris
are all hamstring muscles
that come from the ischial (iss keel) tuberosity of the pelvis
which is, according to the Merriam Webster medical dictionary,
“a bony swelling on the posterior part
of the superior ramus
of the ischium
that gives attachment to
various muscles and
bears the weight of the body in sitting.”
What’s the ramus, you might ask,
and what makes it so damn superior
(and gives me such a headache)?*
Would you settle for:
part of the hip bone,
along with the ilium and pubis?
It’s superior because THEY said so and
because it’s not the other two parts: the body or the inferior ramus.
speaking of the THEY,
as I attempt to read and understand
these medical terms,
I’m struck by how alienating they are.
who, but a select few, can actually
understand and retain these words?
Scott generously suggests that
these terms are complicated and abstract
so as to help doctors have some professional distance
from people,
to be able to put their feelings aside
and focus on doing their job: healing patients.
quite possibly
but I also think it’s a way to alienate us from our own bodies.
how many of you can imagine the “ischial tuberosity”
as a real part of your self?
I’ll admit
sonically, ischial (iss keel) tuberosity is intriguing
I might go hear the lead singer of a band with that name
as long as I brought ear plugs.
but, when I hear those words, I don’t immediately think,
oh yeah, the sitting bones,
which is what they are—
the bones that make it possible for us to sit—and
what, I learned only after reading wikipedia,
they are informally called.

*Someone else gets this reference, right? I’m not the only one who has random lyrics from musicals like Hair pop into their head, am I? Of course not!

note: the initial source for this experiment was Muscles Engaged While Walking, a popular article for a fitness site. I tried to start with more technical sources, but they made my brain start to melt, so I eased my way into it with this article and then, after some exposure to the terms, moved on to other sites.