Foot Health Jargon: Cracking the Code

One of the most popular sports in the country has its national championship coming up from May 28 to June 3. There aren’t any balls or sticks involved. No nets, no special footwear. No teams, even. And yet it’s broadcast nationally every year on cable channels ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3.

What keeps the big sports networks hopping and the nation’s eyes glued to their televisions each spring? It’s the Scripps National Spelling Bee! Two-hundred eighty-five local spelling champions ages 6-15 will gather in Washington, D.C. to compete against their peers, shedding their kid-skins and amazing the nation with their intelligence and wordsmithery – which, right there, is an odd word that you can bet any of these kids could spell with the grace and finesse of a champion figure skater.

How do they do it?! They study the origins of words, as well as their prefixes and suffixes. And here’s where their world and ours collide. Medical professionals like us at Foot & Ankle Associates of Cleveland have spent a lot of time studying medical terminology, and we find a lot of patterns. A little of this knowledge goes a long way, and we encourage our patients who are interested to become familiar with some common medical prefixes and suffixes, like these:

  • -ECTOMY means “excision” or “removal.” If we told you that your bunion needed surgical removal, you’d know that you were in for a bunionectomy.
  • -ITIS means “inflammation.” Feet that carry you around all day every day are prone to inflammation, so you’ll hear a lot of -itis words pitched around our office, like capsulitis (an over-stretched ligament in your toe); sesamoiditis (inflammation of two tiny bones in the ball of the foot); plantar fasciitis (very common, causing heel pain); or arthritis (joint inflammation – from the Greek word “arthron,” meaning “joint”).
  • NEURO- is a prefix meaning “nerve” and -ALGIA is a suffix meaning “pain.” So “neuralgia” means nerve pain; “metatarsalgia” is pain in the metatarsals, or long bones in the middle of your foot.

It helps to think like a Scripps spelling bee contestant at the doctor’s office. But if we ever toss out some medical terminology that you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask for details. Our podiatrists, Dr. Craig B. Frey and Dr. Megan L. Oltmann, will be more than happy to spell it out for you. Visit us at our state-of-the-art office in Solon, Ohio by making an appointment online or calling us at (440) 903-1041.