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Positional and Directional Terms

This is an excerpt from Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology 3rd Edition With HKPropel Access by Karen Sue Clippinger.

Anatomical position has great importance because it is the position of reference for many other anatomical terms, including directional terms (figure 1.1). Two other terms commonly used to describe positions of the body are prone and supine. These terms are particularly helpful for describing strength exercises and stretches provided in this book.

  • Anatomical position is the standard reference position that refers to standing erect with the head and feet facing forward and with the arms down by the sides with the palms facing forward.
  • Prone means lying on the front with the face downward.
  • Supine refers to lying on the back with the face upward.

FIGURE 1.1 Anatomical position and selected directional terms.
FIGURE 1.1 Anatomical position and selected directional terms.

Key directional terms (defined in table 1.1 and selectively illustrated in figure 1.1) provide a way to clearly and concisely describe the relationship of one body structure relative to another in anatomical position. In this text, such terms are particularly useful for describing bones, joints, and muscles. Note that these terms occur in pairs with opposite meanings. Here are some examples:

  • Superior means closer toward the head or above, while inferior means closer toward the feet or below. For example, the knee is superior to the ankle but inferior to the hip joint.
  • Anterior means closer to the front side of the body or in front of, while posterior means closer to the back side of the body or in back of. For example, the biceps brachii muscle is located on the anterior arm and is anterior to the triceps brachii, which is located on the posterior arm.
  • Medial refers to closer toward the midline of the body (or median plane), while lateral refers to farther from the midline. For example, the middle finger is lateral to the little finger but medial to the thumb.
  • Proximal generally means closer to the root of the limb, while distal means farther from the root of the limb. For example, the elbow is proximal to the wrist but distal to the shoulder joint.
  • Superficial refers to closer to the surface of the body, while deep refers to farther from the surface of the body. For example, the internal oblique abdominal is deep to the rectus abdominis but superficial to the transverse abdominis muscle.
  • Palmar is a specialized term that refers to the anterior aspect or surface of the hand. Dorsal refers to the posterior aspect or surface of the hand, as well as the top aspect or surface of the foot.
  • Plantar refers to the bottom aspect or surface of the foot.

In some cases, these directional terms are combined to provide more specific information. One way these terms can be combined is to use a shortened form with an “o,” such as combining anterior and medial to become anteromedial.

Table 1.1 Anatomical Positional and Directional Terminology

Understanding Check 1.1 Positional and Directional Terms

More Excerpts From Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology 3rd Edition With HKPropel Access