Medical Terminology Made Simple

Medical Terminology Made Simple: An Essential Guide

Welcome to an exciting exploration into the world of medical terminology, crafted specifically for massage therapists and students! This post will guide you through the labyrinth of prefixes, suffixes, and root words that form the backbone of medical language. We’ll simplify and clarify the essentials of medical terminology for you, making this complex journey an enlightening and enjoyable experience.

So, what is medical terminology? Medical terminology is a universal language used across the healthcare spectrum. It is a structured communication system, designed with precision, that allows healthcare professionals to articulate, comprehend, and exchange complex medical concepts, procedures, and conditions. Far from being a mere collection of big words, medical terminology serves as the lingua franca connecting all healthcare sectors.

Whether you’re studying A&P in school, preparing for the MBLEx, or striving to effectively communicate with clients and fellow health professionals, a solid understanding of medical terminology isn’t just advantageous—it’s critical. Medical terminology acts as the key to unlock a clearer understanding of the body in health and disease. This practical guide is filled with a comprehensive list of medical prefixes, root words, and suffixes along with examples, providing you with the building blocks to decode, understand, and use medical language effectively. We’ve created a separate resource that covers massage terminology specifically.

Why is Medical Terminology Important for Massage Therapists?

The purpose of a language is to create a common understanding, and when it comes to human health, a mutual comprehension becomes more critical than ever. That’s where medical terminology comes in.

Understanding medical terminology plays a crucial role in the massage therapy profession for several reasons:

  1. Enhanced Communication: Medical terminology provides a universal language that helps therapists communicate more effectively with clients, other health and wellness professionals, and insurance providers. By understanding and using the correct terms, you can convey and receive information precisely and quickly, eliminating potential misunderstandings. It also helps therapists with accurate massage documentation (e.g., client assessments or massage SOAP notes).
  2. Better Understanding of Conditions: Familiarity with medical terms enables massage therapists to understand the specifics of a client’s health condition. It allows you to interpret medical histories on massage intake forms, doctor’s notes, and lab reports, guiding you to tailor the most appropriate therapeutic approach.
  3. Professionalism and Confidence: Knowledge of medical terminology elevates your professional standing. It equips you with the confidence to participate in interdisciplinary discussions, adding credibility to your expertise. Also, it instills trust and assurance in your clients, knowing that their therapist is knowledgeable and competent.
  4. Preparation for MBLEx: Lastly, but certainly not least, the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx exam) includes healthcare terminology in its content outline. A sound grasp of these terms not only facilitates your success in the exam but also establishes a strong foundation for your lifelong learning journey in this therapeutic profession.

Understanding and using medical terminology allows you to navigate the healthcare field more confidently and professionally. It’s an essential part of your toolbox as a massage therapist and a valuable asset in your massage career.

Understanding How Medical Terms Are Formed

Medical terms are like puzzles—once you understand the pieces and how they fit together, the picture becomes clear. Let’s take a look at the basic rules and guidelines that dictate how these terms are structured. Remember, the examples we will use are particularly relevant to fields such as massage therapy therapy.

Medical terminology consists primarily of three key components: root words, prefixes, and suffixes. The term affix can refer to a prefix or a suffix.

Root Words

The root, or stem, of a medical term is the central part of the word and provides the word’s primary meaning. For instance, in ‘cardiology’, the root ‘cardio-‘ refers to the heart. Adding prefixes, suffixes, or even other root words to this root can modify its meaning, but the fundamental concept remains linked to the root. Here are a few more examples of root words:

  • Myo-: This root word comes from the Greek word ‘myos’, which means ‘muscle’. It is used in various medical terms. For example, ‘Myopathy’ refers to a disease of the muscle tissue.
  • Osteo-: Derived from the Greek word ‘osteon’, which means ‘bone’. It forms the basis of several terms related to bones and bone diseases. For instance, ‘Osteoporosis’ is a condition in which the bones become weak and brittle.
  • Kinesio-: This root word comes from the Greek word ‘kinesis’, meaning ‘movement’. It’s often used in terms related to body movement and kinesiology. An example is ‘Kinesiology’ itself, which is the study of the mechanics of body movements.


Prefixes in medical terminology are added at the beginning of a root word to modify or qualify its meaning. It’s not a standalone term but helps to further specify the how the root word is being used. For example, in the term ‘hypothermia’, ‘hypo-‘ is the prefix and it means ‘under’, indicating a below-normal temperature. Here are three more examples of how prefixes are used in medical terminology:

  • Hyper-: Meaning ‘excessive’ or ‘above normal’. For example, in ‘hypertension’, ‘hyper-‘ indicates an above-normal tension or pressure, specifically referring to high blood pressure in this context.
  • Sub-: Meaning ‘under’ or ‘below’. For example, ‘subcutaneous’ refers to something situated or applied under the skin. In massage therapy, you might refer to ‘subcutaneous tissues’, meaning the tissues beneath the skin.
  • Inter-: Meaning ‘between’. For example, ‘intervertebral’ means located between vertebrae. This term is often used in physical therapy when discussing issues related to the spine, such as intervertebral disc degeneration.


Suffixes are placed at the end of a root word to modify its meaning or create a new term. Suffixes can denote a condition, disease, disorder, procedure, or medical specialty. They serve to specify the action, condition, part of the body, or time involved in the term. For example, “-ology” indicates the study of a field (e.g., pathology, kinesiology, histology), and “-ectomy” indicates a surgical removal or excision (e.g., splenectomy). Understanding suffixes in medical terminology is crucial to accurately interpreting and communicating medical information. Here are a few more examples of suffixes commonly used in medical terminology:

  • -itis: This suffix refers to inflammation. For example, ‘tendonitis’ indicates inflammation of a tendon, a common condition treated in physical therapy and massage.
  • -algia: This suffix indicates pain. For example, ‘myalgia’ means muscle pain (“myo-” is the root for muscle, and “-algia” indicates pain) This is something that massage therapists often help clients manage.
  • -plasty: This suffix is used to denote the molding, formation, or surgical repair of a body part. An example is “Arthroplasty”, which refers to the surgical repair of a joint (“arthro-” is the root word for joint).
  • -stasis: This suffix indicates stopping or controlling. For example, in “Hemostasis”, it denotes the process of stopping bleeding or the flow of blood (“hemo-” is the root word for blood).

Understanding this structure can help you make sense of even the most complex medical terms. As a professional in massage therapy, mastering medical terminology will allow you to communicate effectively with other healthcare professionals, and better understand your clients’ conditions and treatment needs.

Tips on forming medical terms

  • Combining vowels facilitate pronunciation: Combining vowels (most commonly ‘o’) are used between two root words or a root word and a suffix to make the word easier to pronounce. For instance, in ‘arthroscopy’, the ‘o’ is a combining vowel.
  • Some terms have more than one root word: These words describe two related but distinct concepts. For example, in ‘cardiopulmonary’, ‘cardio-‘ relates to the heart, and ‘-pulmonary’ to the lungs.
  • Double consonants may be simplified: In some cases, if a root word ends with the same letter that the suffix or second root word begins with, one of these consonants may be dropped for simplicity. However, this is not always the case and some terms do maintain the double consonant.

It’s important to remember that this is a simplified way to understand medical terminology. Some terms might not follow these rules, and many terms will be a combination of multiple roots, prefixes, or suffixes. Also, many word components can be used as either a root, prefix or suffix. However, having this basic understanding can be a significant first step in mastering medical terminology and expanding your healthcare vocabulary.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a functional medical vocabulary!

Medical Terminology in Practice

One might wonder about the connection between medical terminology and massage therapy. After all, isn’t massage about learning muscles and massage techniques, not reciting medical jargon? As it turns out, medical terminology plays a significant role in a massage therapist’s education and daily practice.

Firstly, let’s consider your preparation for the MBLEx. The exam is designed to assess your understanding of various subjects, including anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and pathology—all areas rife with medical terminology. Therefore, acquiring a solid understanding of basic medical terminology can significantly enhance your comprehension of these subjects and ultimately, your performance on the exam.

For instance, knowing that ‘itis’ is a suffix indicating inflammation, and ‘myo’ is a root word for muscle, you can infer that ‘myositis’ refers to muscle inflammation. This knowledge can help you navigate exam questions that require an understanding of specific conditions.

Moving beyond the MBLEx, medical terminology continues to hold relevance in your day-to-day practice as a massage therapist. Being well-versed in this language can help you better understand clients’ health histories, comprehend referral information from other healthcare providers, and design effective treatment plans. 

For example, if a client’s medical history mentions ‘sciatica,’ knowing that ‘sciatic’ refers to the sciatic nerve, and the suffix ‘-a’ refers to a condition, you can deduce that the client is experiencing a condition related to their sciatic nerve, affecting your treatment approach.

In conclusion, understanding basic medical terminology plays a pivotal role in preparing for the MBLEx and delivering effective massage therapy. This foundational knowledge not only enhances your ability to communicate with clients and other healthcare providers but also empowers you to provide the best possible care to your clients.

Medical terminology spelled with tiles

Medical Prefixes, Suffixes and Root Words A-D

Navigating medical terminology can feel like learning a new language. To ease this process, we have prepared comprehensive tables, which include prefixes, root words, and suffixes with their meanings and relevant examples. This resource, organized alphabetically, are designed to enhance your understanding and retention of key medical terms, whether you’re preparing for the MBLEx or just brushing up for your massage therapy practice.

PrefixA-, an-Without, notAnemia (without blood), Avascular (without blood vessels)
PrefixAd-TowardAdductor (a muscle that draws a limb towards the body)
PrefixAb-Away fromAbduction (movement away from the midline)
PrefixAcro-ExtremitiesAcromegaly (enlargement of extremities due to excessive growth hormone)
PrefixAnte-BeforeAntepartum (before childbirth)
PrefixAnti-AgainstAntispasmodic (suppressing spasms)
RootArteri-ArteryArteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
RootAudi-HearingAudiogram (a graph showing hearing ability)
RootAngi-VesselAngioplasty (surgical repair of a blood vessel)
RootAlveol-Small cavityAlveoli (small cavities in the lung where gas exchange occurs)
RootAph-DeficitAphasia (deficit in language ability)
RootArthr-JointArthritis (inflammation of a joint)
RootAmphi-Both, on both sidesAmphiarthrosis (slightly movable joint)
RootAxill-ArmpitAxillary (pertaining to the armpit)
Suffix-algiaPainMyalgia (muscle pain)
Suffix-ac, -al, -ar, -aryPertaining toCardiac (pertaining to the heart), Oral (pertaining to the mouth), Muscular (pertaining to muscles), Dietary (pertaining to diet)
Suffix-apheresisRemovalPlasmapheresis (removal of plasma from withdrawn blood)
Suffix-aseEnzymeSalivary Amylase (enzyme made by salivary glands that breaks down complex carbohydrates)
Suffix-astheniaWeaknessMyasthenia (weakness or fatigue of muscles)
Suffix-asis, -asiaCondition, state ofHomeostasis (maintaining internal stability)
PrefixBi-TwoBifocal (having two focuses), Biceps (muscle with two heads)
PrefixBrachi-ArmBrachial (pertaining to the arm)
PrefixBas-BaseBasal (forming or belonging to a bottom layer or base)
PrefixBio-LifeBiology (study of life)
PrefixBacill-Little rodBacillus (a disease-causing bacterium)
RootBronch-WindpipeBronchitis (inflammation of the windpipe)
RootBrady-SlowBradycardia (abnormally slow heart action)
RootBucc-CheekBuccal (pertaining to the cheek)
RootBurs-Bag, purseBursitis (inflammation of a bursa, typically one in the knee or elbow)
RootBi-LifeBiotic (pertaining to life)
RootBlephar-EyelidBlepharospasm (involuntary tight closure of the eyelids)
RootBili-BileBilirubin (a yellow compound that occurs in the normal catabolic pathway)
RootBaro-WeightBaroreceptor (a body sensor that regulates blood pressure)
Suffix-blastImmature, embryonicOsteoblast (a cell that secretes the matrix for bone formation)
Suffix-baricPressureHyperbaric (involving a greater than normal pressure)
Suffix-betesGoingDiabetes (a disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin is impaired)
Suffix-basiaWalkingAmbulobasia (walking about)
PrefixCon-With, TogetherContraction (shortening of a muscle)
PrefixCircum-AroundCircumduction (circular movement of a limb)
PrefixCis-CutIncision (a surgical cut made in skin or flesh)
PrefixCo-With, TogetherCoexist (exist at the same time or in the same place)
PrefixCryo-ColdCryotherapy (use of cold in treatment)
PrefixCephal-HeadCephalic (pertaining to the head)
RootCardi-HeartCardiology (study of the heart)
RootCerebr-BrainCerebrovascular (pertaining to blood vessels in the brain)
RootCutane-SkinSubcutaneous (beneath the skin)
RootChondr-CartilageChondromalacia (softening of the cartilage)
RootCol-ColonColitis (inflammation of the colon)
RootCrani-SkullCraniotomy (surgical opening into the skull)
RootCerebello-Little brainCerebellum (part of the brain at the back of the skull)
RootCervic-Neck, CervixCervical (pertaining to the neck or cervix)
Suffix-cyteCellErythrocyte (red blood cell), Leukocyte (white blood cell)
Suffix-cideKillBactericide (agent that kills bacteria)
Suffix-clasisBreakOsteoclasis (surgical fracture of a bone to correct deformity)
Suffix-crineSecreteEndocrine (secreting internally)
Suffix-centesisPunctureArthrocentesis (puncture of a joint space using a needle)
Suffix-celeHernia, SwellingCystocele (prolapse of the bladder)
PrefixDys-Difficult, painful, abnormalDyspnea (difficulty breathing)
PrefixDactyl-Finger, toeDactylitis (inflammation of a finger or toe)
PrefixDe-Away from, cessation, reversalDehydration (removal of water)
PrefixDi-Twice, doubleDiplopia (double vision)
RootDerm-SkinDermatitis (inflammation of the skin)
RootDors-BackDorsiflexion (bending the foot or hand backward)
RootDuod-TwelveDuodenum (first part of the small intestine, about twelve fingers’ breadth long)
RootDent-ToothDentist (a specialist in oral health)
RootDiplo-DoubleDiploid (a cell or organism with double the basic haploid number of chromosomes)
RootDendr-TreeDendrite (a nerve cell extension, named for its tree-like branches)
Suffix-dyniaPainMyodynia (muscle pain)
Suffix-dromeRunning, courseSyndrome (a running together of symptoms, a condition)
Suffix-desisBinding, fixationArthrodesis (surgical fixation of a joint)
Suffix-dipsiaThirstPolydipsia (excessive thirst)
Suffix-dermaSkinPachyderma (thick skin)
Suffix-demaSwellingEdema (a condition characterized by an excess of watery fluid collecting in the cavities or tissues of the body)
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Medical Prefixes, Suffixes and Root Words E-H

PrefixEpi-Upon, over, aboveEpidermis (the outer layer of the skin)
PrefixEndo-WithinEndocardium (the inner lining of the heart)
PrefixExo-OutsideExocrine glands (an externally secreting gland such as a sweat gland or salivary gland, secretes via a duct)
PrefixEx-, E-Out of, fromExhale (to breathe out)
PrefixExtra-Outside of, beyondExtracellular (outside the cell)
RootEncephal-BrainEncephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
RootEnter-IntestinesEnteritis (inflammation of the intestines)
RootErythr-RedErythrocyte (red blood cell)
RootEsthesi-Sensation, feelingAnesthesia (without sensation)
RootEsophag-EsophagusEsophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus)
Suffix-emiaBlood conditionAnemia (condition of having fewer than normal red blood cells)
Suffix-ectomyExcision, removalAppendectomy (removal of the appendix)
Suffix-edemaSwellingMyoedema (swelling of muscle tissue)
Suffix-emiaBlood conditionLeukemia (a type of blood cancer)
Suffix-eal, -eousPertaining toCutaneous (pertaining to the skin), Mucous (pertaining to mucus)
Suffix-esthesiaSensationHyperesthesia (increased sensitivity to stimulation)
Suffix-eurysmWide, dilatedAneurysm (a dilation in the wall of an artery)
Suffix-exiaCondition, stateAnorexia (state of not eating)
Suffix-ectomyExcision, removalHysterectomy (removal of the uterus)
Suffix-esisAction, processDiuresis (process of increased urine production)
PrefixFore-Before, in front ofForearm (the part of the arm in front of the elbow)
PrefixFlex-BendFlexor (a muscle that bends a joint)
PrefixFung-Mushroom, fungusFungicide (a chemical that kills fungi)
PrefixFurc-Fork, branchingBifurcation (division into two branches)
RootFemor-Thigh, femurFemoral artery (the main artery of the thigh)
RootFibr-FiberFibrillation (irregular contraction of muscle fibers)
Fibromyalgia (chronic pain condition affecting fibrous tissues)
RootFollic-Small bag, follicleFolliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles)
RootFus-Pour, meltInfusion (pouring a liquid into the body, e.g. via intravenous therapy)
RootFract-BreakFracture (a break in a bone)
Suffix-ferousBearing, carryingSomniferous (carrying or inducing sleep)
Suffix-fugeDriving away, expellingCentrifuge (a machine that drives particles away from the center by spinning)
Suffix-fusionPouringTransfusion (pouring blood or blood products from one person to another)
Suffix-formShape, resemblingFusiform (spindle-shaped, wide in the middle and tapered at both ends)
Suffix-facientMaking, causingSomnifacient (causing or inducing sleep)
Suffix-fidSplit, divided intoBifid (divided into two parts or lobes)
Suffix-flexiaBendDorsiflexion (bending backward)
Suffix-fluxFlowEfflux (the process of flowing out)
Suffix-foliateLeafBifoliate (having two leaves)
Suffix-fusionPouringInfusion (introduction of a new element or quality into something else)
PrefixGastr-StomachGastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
PrefixGlyc-Sugar, sweetGlycolysis (the breakdown of glucose by enzymes), Glycogen (storage form of glucose)
PrefixGingiv-Gum(s)Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
PrefixGluc-Glucose, sugarGlucagon (a hormone that increases blood sugar levels)
PrefixGlosso-TongueGlossopharyngeal (pertaining to the tongue and pharynx)
RootGen-Origin, cause, birthGenesis (the origin or mode of formation of something)
RootGeront-Old ageGerontology (the study of aging and the problems of the aged)
RootGingiv-Gum(s)Gingivectomy (surgical removal of gum tissue)
RootGlom-Ball, round massGlomerulus (a cluster of nerve endings, spores, or small blood vessels)
RootGlyc-Sugar, sweetGlycemia (presence of sugar in the blood)
Suffix-genesisOrigin, cause, birthPathogenesis (the origin and development of a disease)
Suffix-genicProducing, originatingPathogenic (capable of producing disease)
Suffix-globinProteinHemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen)
Suffix-gramRecord, writingElectrocardiogram (a record of the electrical activity of the heart)
Suffix-graphInstrument for recordingPolygraph (an instrument for recording changes in several bodily functions simultaneously)
Suffix-graphyProcess of recordingAngiography (radiographic visualization of blood vessels after injection of radiopaque substance)
Suffix-gravidaPregnant womanPrimigravida (a woman who is pregnant for the first time)
Suffix-gradeGo, walk, stepRetrograde (going backward, a degenerating or deteriorating process)
Suffix-gramRecord, writingMammogram (an x-ray of the breast)
Suffix-graphInstrument for recordingElectrocardiograph (an instrument for recording the electricity in the heart)
PrefixHemi-HalfHemiplegia (paralysis of one side of the body)
PrefixHepat-LiverHepatitis (inflammation of the liver)
PrefixHydr-WaterHydration (process of causing something to absorb water)
PrefixHyper-Over, aboveHyperextension (extension of a body part beyond its normal limit)
PrefixHypo-Under, belowHypotension (abnormally low blood pressure)
RootHemat-BloodHematology (the study of the physiology of the blood)
RootHyster-UterusHysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus)
RootHist-TissueHistology (the study of the microscopic structure of tissues)
RootHepat-LiverHepatoma (a tumor of the liver)
RootHydro-WaterHydrotherapy (the use of water in the treatment of disease)
RootHetero-DifferentHeterogeneous (consisting of different types; diverse)
RootHomo-SameHomogeneous (of the same kind; alike)
RootHyster-UterusHysterotomy (a surgical incision into the uterus, typically used during a caesarean section)

Medical Prefixes, Suffixes and Root Words I-L

PrefixIleo-Ileum (part of the small intestine)Ileostomy (surgical creation of an opening in the ileum)
PrefixIntra-Within, insideIntramuscular (within a muscle)
PrefixInter-BetweenIntercellular (between cells)
PrefixInfra-Beneath, belowInfrapatellar (below the kneecap)
PrefixIso-Equal, sameIsometric (equal in measure, particularly in muscle contraction without significant change in length)
RootImmun-ProtectionImmunology (the branch of medicine that deals with immunity)
RootInflam-To set on fireInflammation (a localized physical condition in which part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, and often painful)
RootInsulin-IslandInsulin (a hormone produced in the pancreas by the islets of Langerhans, which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood)
RootIrid-IrisIridectomy (surgical removal of part of the iris)
RootIleo-IleumIleitis (inflammation of the ileum)
Suffix-itisInflammationArthritis (inflammation of the joints)
Suffix-ionProcessFlexion (the action of bending or the condition of being bent)
Suffix-iorPertaining toAnterior (pertaining to the front)
Suffix-ilePertaining toMobile (capable of moving or being moved)
Suffix-ismCondition, disease processHypothyroidism (condition resulting from underactivity of the thyroid gland)
Suffix-iasisConditionPsoriasis (skin condition characterized by red, itchy, scaly patches)
Suffix-istSpecialistPhysiotherapist (a specialist in physical therapy)
Suffix-iatricPertaining to treatmentPediatric (pertaining to the treatment of children)
Suffix-ibleCapable of, able toFlexible (capable of bending without breaking)
Suffix-ilePertaining toDuctile (capable of being molded or shaped)
Suffix-iaConditionDyskinesia (distortion or impairment of voluntary movement)
RootJejun/oReferring to the jejunum (part of the small intestine)Jejunostomy (creation of an opening in the jejunum)
RootJugul/oReferring to the throat or neckJugular (pertaining to the throat or neck)
RootKinesi/oMovementKinesiology (study of movement)
RootKyph/oHumpback, humpKyphosis (an excessive outward curvature of the spine, causing hunching of the back)
Suffix-kinesiaMovementBradykinesia (slowness of movement)
PrefixLact/oMilkLactase (enzyme that breaks down lactose, a sugar in milk)
PrefixLapar/oAbdominal wallLaparotomy (surgical incision into the abdominal cavity)
PrefixLeuk/oWhiteLeukocyte (white blood cell)
PrefixLater/oSideLateral flexion – Bending to one side of the body.
RootLumboLower backLumbar (pertaining to the lower back)
RootLymph/oLymphLymphocyte (type of white blood cell)
RootLingu/oTongueSublingual (Situated or applied under the tongue).
RootLith/oStone, calculusLithotripsy (Procedure that uses shock waves to break up stones in the kidney and parts of the ureter).
RootLatin/oLayerLaminectomy (Surgical removal of the posterior arch of a vertebra to access the spinal cord or spinal
RootLip/oFatLipolysis (Breakdown of fats, commonly used in massage therapy to refer to the breakdown and “release” of fat cells).
RootLob/oLobeLobectomy (Surgical removal of a lobe of an organ such as the thyroid gland, lung, liver, or brain).
RootLacrim/oTearLacrimal glands (Glands that secrete of tears).
RootLys/oBreakdown, destructionLysis (destruction or breakdown of cells)
Suffix-logyStudy ofKinesiology (study of movement)
Suffix-lysis or
Dissolving, reducingParalysis (loss of ability to move). Hemolysis (The rupture or destruction of red blood cells).
Suffix-lepsis, -lepsySeizure, attackEpilepsy (a neurological disorder marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, or convulsions)

Medical Prefixes, Suffixes and Root Words M-P

PrefixMacr/oLargeMacroscopic (visible to the naked eye)
PrefixMal-Bad, PoorMalnutrition (poor nutrition due to lack of food or inability to utilize its nutrients)
PrefixMega-Large, GreatMegacolon (abnormally large colon)
PrefixMelan/oBlack, DarkMelanocyte (cells that produce melanin, giving color to skin, hair, and eyes)
PrefixMeta-Change, After, BeyondMetabolism (set of life-sustaining chemical reactions in organisms)
PrefixMicro-SmallMicroscopic (too small to be seen without a microscope)
PrefixMono-One, SingleMonocyte (a type of white blood cell)
PrefixMy/oMuscleMyocardium (muscle tissue of the heart)
PrefixMyel/oSpinal cord, Bone marrowMyelopathy (disease of the spinal cord)
RootMast/oBreastMastectomy (surgical removal of a breast)
RootMening/oMembranes surrounding the brain and spinal cordMeningitis (inflammation of the meninges)
RootMorph/oForm, StructureMorphology (study of the forms and structures of organisms)
RootMyel/oBone marrow, Spinal cordMyelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord)
RootMy/oMuscleMyopathy (disease of muscle tissue)
RootMyos/oMuscleMyositis (inflammation of muscle tissue)
Suffix-malaciaSofteningOsteomalacia (softening of the bones due to vitamin D or calcium deficiency)
Suffix-maniaObsession withBibliomania (obsessive interest in collecting or reading books)
Suffix-megalyEnlargementCardiomegaly (abnormal enlargement of the heart)
Suffix-metryMeasurement ofSymmetry (balance among system or body parts)
Suffix-morphShape, FormAmorphous (without a clearly defined shape or form)
Suffix-mycinAntibioticErythromycin (an antibiotic used for a number of bacterial infections)
Suffix-myalgiaMuscle painFibromyalgia (a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain)
PrefixNas/oNoseNasal (pertaining to the nose)
PrefixNephro/oKidneyNephropathy (disease of the kidney)
PrefixNeuro-NerveNeurology (branch of medicine dealing with disorders of the nervous system)
PrefixNoci-Harm, PainNociception (The sensory nervous system’s response to harmful or potentially harmful stimuli)
RootNat/oBirthNeonatal (pertaining to newborn)
RootNecr/oDeathNecrosis (death of body tissue)
RootNerv/oNerveNervous system (the network of nerve cells and fibers which transmits nerve impulses)
RootNephr/oKidneyNephritis (inflammation of the kidneys)
RootNeur/oNerveNeuron (a nerve cell)
RootNoc/oCause harm, injuryNociceptive (referring to the signal that travels along nerve fibers in response to harmful stimuli)
RootNod/oNodeNodule (a small swelling or aggregation of cells in the body)
RootNorm/oNormalNormal range (referring to the normal functioning range in body)
RootNos/oDiseaseNosocomial (pertaining to hospital-acquired infection)
RootNucle/oNucleusNucleotide (basic building block of nucleic acids)
Suffix-otomyCutting into, incisionCraniotomy (an operation to open the skull)
Suffix-gnoKnow, understandPrognosis (the likely course of a disease), Diagnosis (recognition of a disease from its symptoms)
PrefixOlig/oFew or smallOligodendrocyte (a type of cell in the nervous system)
PrefixOnych/oNailOnychomycosis (fungal infection of the nail)
PrefixOxi/oOxygenOximeter (an instrument for measuring the proportion of oxygenated hemoglobin in the blood)
RootOcul/oEyeBinocular (pertaining to use of both eyes)
RootOdont/oToothOrthodontist (a specialist in correcting irregularities of the teeth)
RootOnc/oTumorOncology (study of tumors)
RootOphthalm/oEyeOphthalmoscope (an instrument for inspecting the retina and other parts of the eye)
RootOr/oMouthOral (pertaining to the mouth)
RootOrth/oStraightOrthopedic (pertaining to the correction of deformities of the musculoskeletal system)
RootOste/oBoneOsteocyte (a bone cell)
RootOt/oEarOtolaryngologist (a specialist in the disorders of the ear, nose, and throat)
Suffix-omaTumorMelanoma (a type of skin cancer)
Suffix-opsyExamination, viewBiopsy (examination of tissue removed from a living body)
Suffix-osisCondition, increaseScoliosis (a condition in which the spine bends to the side)
Suffix-ostomyFormation of an artificial openingColostomy (a surgical operation in which a piece of the colon is diverted to an artificial opening in the abdominal wall)
PrefixPachy-ThickPachyderma (thickening of the skin)
PrefixPan-AllPanacea (a remedy for all diseases)
PrefixPar-Beside, nearParasympathetic (pertaining to the part of the nervous system that generally acts in opposition to the sympathetic nervous system)
PrefixPeri-AroundPericardium (the membrane enclosing the heart)
PrefixPoly-ManyPolymyalgia (pain in many muscles)
PrefixPost-After, behindPostmortem (after death), Posterior
PrefixPro-BeforePrognosis (a prediction of the likely course of a disease)
PrefixPseudo-FalsePseudocyesis (false pregnancy)
RootPneum/oLung, airPneumonia (an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs)
RootPod/oFootPodiatrist (a specialist in care for the feet)
RootPulmon/oLungPulmonology (the branch of medicine dealing with diseases of the lungs and bronchi)
RootPy/oPusPyoderma (a skin infection with formation of pus)
RootPyr/oFire, heatPyrexia (fever)
Suffix-paresisWeaknessHemiparesis (weakness of one side of the body)
Suffix-pathyDiseaseNeuropathy (disease or dysfunction of one or more peripheral nerves)
Suffix-peniaDeficiencyLeukopenia (a reduction in the number of white cells in the blood), Osteopenia
Suffix-pepsiaDigestionDyspepsia (indigestion)
Suffix-phagiaEating, swallowingDysphagia (difficulty in swallowing)
Suffix-phasiaSpeechAphasia (loss of ability to understand or express speech)
Suffix-phobiaFearClaustrophobia (fear of confined places)
Suffix-plasiaFormation, growthHyperplasia (the enlargement of an organ or tissue caused by an increase in the reproduction rate of its cells)
Suffix-plastySurgical repairRhinoplasty (cosmetic surgery on the nose)
Suffix-plegiaParalysisParaplegia (paralysis of the legs and lower body)

Medical Prefixes, Suffixes and Root Words Q-T

RootQuadri- or
FourQuadriplegia (paralysis of all four limbs; both arms and both legs)
Quadriceps (large muscle at the front of the thigh, which is divided into four distinct sections)
PrefixRetro-BackwardRetroversion: A turning backward (as of an anatomical part).
PrefixRhabd-Rod-shaped, striatedRhabdomyolysis: A condition in which damaged skeletal muscle breaks down rapidly.
PrefixRheum-Flow, dischargeRheumatoid arthritis: A long-term autoimmune disorder that affects the joints.
PrefixRhin-NoseRhinitis: Inflammation and swelling of the mucous membrane of the nose.
RootRen-KidneyRenal artery: The artery that supplies blood to the kidneys.
RootRadic-Root, nerve rootRadiculopathy: A disease of the root of a nerve, such as from a pinched nerve.
RootRachi-SpineRachiopathy: Any disease of the vertebral column.
RootRadi-Ray, radius (bone of the forearm)Radiography: Imaging technique using X-rays to view the internal form of an object.
Suffix-rrheaFlow, dischargeDiarrhea: Condition characterized by loose or liquid bowel movements.
Suffix-rrhexisRuptureMyorrhexis: The rupture or tearing of a muscle, often occurs in sports injuries.
Suffix-rhageBursting forth, heavy flowHemorrhage: Excessive or uncontrolled bleeding.
PrefixScler(o)-Hard, hardeningSclerotherapy: A treatment for blood vessel malformations and also used in physical therapy.
PrefixScop-See, observeEndoscopy: A non-surgical procedure used to examine a person’s digestive tract.
PrefixSemi-Half, partialSemilunar valves: Two of the heart’s four valves, named so for their half-moon shape.
PrefixSyn-, Sym-With, togetherSynovial joint: A fully moveable joint in mammals, which includes a synovial cavity.
PrefixSuper-, Supra-Above, excessiveSupraspinatus: A relatively small muscle of the upper back that runs from the supraspinatus fossa superior portion of the scapula (shoulder blade) to the humerus. It is one of the four rotator cuff muscles and also assists with abduction.
PrefixSub-Under, belowSubluxation: Partial dislocation of a joint.
PrefixSpondyl(o)-Vertebrae, spineSpondylosis: Degeneration of the spinal column, especially that resulting in fusion and immobilization of the vertebral bones.
PrefixSept-Seven, partitionSeptum: A partition separating two chambers, such as that between the nostrils or the chambers of the heart.
RootSarco-Flesh, muscleSarcoma: A cancer that arises from transformed cells of mesenchymal origin, which includes muscle and bone.
RootSomat-BodySomatosensory: Relating to or denoting a sensation (such as pressure, pain, or warmth) that can occur anywhere in the body.
RootSpondyl-Spine, vertebraSpondylitis: Inflammation of one or more vertebrae.
RootStoma-Mouth, openingStomatitis: Inflammation of the mouth and lips.
RootSpasm-Sudden, involuntary muscle contractionSpasm: Sudden, involuntary muscle contraction.
RootSteth-ChestStethoscope: An acoustic device for listening to internal sounds in the human body, such as the heart and lungs.
RootSplen-SpleenSplenomegaly: Abnormal enlargement of the spleen.
RootSystol-ContractionSystole: The phase of the heartbeat when the heart muscle contracts and pumps blood from the chambers into the arteries.
Suffix-stasisStopping, controllingHomeostasis: The body’s ability to maintain a stable internal environment.
Suffix-stomyCreating an openingColostomy: A surgical procedure that provides an opening for a portion of the colon to the abdominal surface.
Suffix-scopyTo view, observeArthroscopy: A procedure for diagnosing and treating joint problems. A surgeon inserts a narrow tube attached to a fiber-optic video camera through a small incision — about the size of a buttonhole. The view inside your joint is transmitted to a high-definition video monitor.
Suffix-sclerosisHardeningAtherosclerosis: A disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other parts of your body.
PrefixTachy-FastTachycardia: An abnormally fast heart rate.
PrefixTrans-Across, throughTransdermal: Going across or through the skin, as in transdermal drug delivery.
PrefixTri-ThreeTriceps: A large muscle on the back of the upper limb.
RootThromb(o)-ClotThrombosis: Local coagulation or clotting of the blood in a part of the circulatory system.
Thrombocyte: Another term for platelets, which are blood cells that help in clotting.
RootTherm(o)-HeatThermoregulation: The ability of an organism to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries.
RootTendin-TendonTendinitis: Inflammation or irritation of a tendon.
RootThorac-ChestThoracic: Relating to the part of the body between the neck and the abdomen, i.e., the chest.
RootThyr-ThyroidThyroiditis: Inflammation of the thyroid gland.
RootTonsill-TonsilsTonsillitis: Inflammation of the tonsils, typically of viral origin.
Suffix-therapyTreatmentPhysiotherapy: Treatment using physical methods, such as massage and exercise.
Suffix-tomyCutting, incisionTracheotomy: A surgical procedure which consists of making an incision on the anterior aspect of the neck and opening a direct airway through an incision in the trachea (windpipe).
Suffix-tensionPressureHypertension: Abnormally high blood pressure.
Suffix-trophyNourishment, developmentHypertrophy: The enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells.

Medical Prefixes, Suffixes and Root Words U-Z

PrefixUni-OneUnilateral: Affecting one side of something.
PrefixUltra-BeyondUltrasonography: Imaging method using high-frequency sound waves.
RootUreter(o)-UreterUreteritis: Inflammation of the ureter.
RootUrethr(o)-UrethraUrethritis: Inflammation of the urethra.
RootUrin(o)-UrineUrinalysis: Analysis of urine by physical, chemical, and microscopical means to test for the presence of disease.
RootUlna-Ulna (bone in the forearm)Ulnar Deviation: Movement of the wrist towards the ulna or the outer side of the arm.
RootUmbilic-Navel, belly buttonUmbilical: Pertaining to the navel.
RootUve(o)-Uvea (eye layer)Uveitis: Inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye.
Suffix-uriaUrine conditionProteinuria: The presence of abnormal quantities of protein in the urine, which may indicate damage to the kidneys.
PrefixVas(o)-VesselVasodilation: The dilation of blood vessels.
PrefixVeno-VeinVenogram: An X-ray test that provides an image of the leg veins.
RootViscer(o)-Internal organsVisceral: Pertaining to the internal organs of the body.
RootVentricul-Small chamberVentricular: Pertaining to a ventricle, most commonly used in reference to the chambers of the heart.
RootVertebro-VertebraVertebroplasty: A medical procedure to repair vertebral fractures.
RootVestibulo-Entrance, vestibuleVestibulocochlear: Pertaining to the vestibule of the ear and the cochlea.
RootVitre(o)-GlassyVitreous humor: The clear gel that fills the space between the lens and the retina of the eyeball.
Suffix-vagalPertaining to the vagus nerveVasovagal: Relating to or involving a reflex response caused by activity of the vagus nerve.
Suffix-versionTurningRetroversion: A turning backward (as of an organ such as the uterus).
PrefixXero-DryXerostomia: Dry mouth, often a side effect of certain medications.
PrefixXeno-ForeignXenograft: A graft obtained from a donor of a different species.
RootX-rayA form of high-energy electromagnetic radiationX-ray: A diagnostic imaging technique used to visualize the inside of the body, especially bones.
Suffix-ya condition or state of beingatrophy” refers to a state of wasting away or decrease in size of a body part.
RootZo/oReferring to animal or life.Zoonosis: A disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans.
RootZyg/o, Zygomat/oReferring to a union or junction, or the zygomatic (cheek) bone.Zygomycosis: A severe fungal infection often seen in immunocompromised patients, relevant in pathology. Zygomatic:

Tips for Mastering Medical Terminology

Here are a few quick tips to help make learning medical terminology for massage easier:

  1. Learn the Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes: Rather than attempting to memorize every medical term, focus on understanding the common prefixes, roots, and suffixes. Once you know these, you can often deduce the meaning of new words.
  2. Flashcards are Your Friend: Use flashcards to practice your medical terminology. One side should contain the term, and the other side should include the definition. Review these cards regularly to reinforce your memory.
  3. Practice Makes Perfect: Incorporate new medical terms into your daily routine. Try to use them in conversation, or create your own anatomy charts to refer back to them.
  4. Group Study: Learning with peers can be a helpful way to understand and remember complex terms. Try explaining a concept to someone else, which is often a great way to reinforce your understanding.
  5. Use a Medical Dictionary: This is an invaluable resource when learning medical terminology. It can help you understand the origins of words and their meanings.
  6. Stay Consistent: Consistency is key when learning a new language. Set aside time each day to study medical terminology, and you’ll see progress faster than you think.

Final Thoughts

In summary, understanding medical terminology is an essential skill for all massage therapists. It not only promotes effective communication among health and wellness professionals, but it also serves as a solid foundation for your MBLEx exam preparation. Our blog post has given you a thorough introduction to this structured language, supplying you with a good foundation of key prefixes, root words, and suffixes that are common in the field of massage therapy.

However, this is just the starting point in your learning journey. To gain an even more comprehensive understanding and to prepare effectively for your MBLEx exam, we invite you to become a member and enroll in our MBLEx Prep Course. The course is crafted to hone your knowledge, sharpen your skills, and ultimately, help you pass your exam with flying colors.

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