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Directions and Positions

You'll need to understand the terminology for location, directions, and positions to guide you around the body. It would be so nice if the terms were as simple as up, down, left, right, etc. but that's not the case. Anatomical terms may seem confusing at first, but they allow for more precision when referencing the many parts of the body.

To assist you in learning, we will describe muscles in more common terms (regular people speak like up, down) as well as their anatomical terms (superior, inferior). When communicating with other professionals, use the anatomical terms. When communicating with clients, you can use the common terms. Your choice.

Buckle up and let's learn this so you can find your way around the body.

Planes of Movement

© Jan 16, 2020 OpenStax.
  • Sagittal - divides the body into left and right halves.
  • Midline - also called midsagittal means equals left and right halves.
  • Frontal - divides into front and back, aka coronal.
  • Transverse - divides into top and bottom. Rotation happens on this plane.

Directions and Positions

  • Anatomical Position - This is your standard view of the human body, standing upright with palms facing forward. No matter what the position the body is in, directions and positions are described relative to the anatomical position.
  • Anterior - front, aka ventral.
  • Posterior - back, aka dorsal.
  • Lateral - side.
  • Medial - closer to the midline.
  • Lateral - away from the midline.
  • Superior - above or closer to the head.
  • Inferior - below or closer to the feet.
  • Distal - further away from the trunk.
  • Proximal - closer to the trunk.
  • Deep - below the surface, i.e. deeper in the body.
  • Superficial - closer to the surface.

Note: Left (L) and Right (R) are relative to the person being viewed.

© Jan 16, 2020 OpenStax.

Misc Terminology

These terms are less frequent, but may be used depending on the application.

  • Supine - on your spine.
  • Prone - on your belly or face down.
  • Contralateral - opposite side.
  • Ipsilateral - same side.
  • Cranial - closer to the head.
  • Caudal - closer to the buttocks (your 2-pack).
© Jan 16, 2020 OpenStax.
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