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The Anatomical Position

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 2

Anatomical Position

The Anatomical position is a position wherein the human body assumes an upright position, with feet together, face facing front, arms are at the sides, with the palms of the hands facing forwards.  This is the same position used to establish the locations of the body part, and how it is placed in relation to other body structures.

Axis and Planes

Imagine a sheet of paper pierced at the center by a long stick.  This demonstrates the correlation of the axis and the plane.  The plane is the paper and its axis is the stick.


We have different planes namely:  Transverse, Coronal, Median and planes.  Hold the stick in a vertical manner. You will now see that the stick is divided into an upper and lower half.  This now represents the Transverse Plane.

Now holding the stick in a horizontal manner, with the piece of paper facing you, this now represents the Coronal Plane or the Frontal Plane.  This plane divides the stick into a front and back portion.

Finally, holding the stick still in a horizontal position but this time the end of the stick is pointed towards the side, will represent the Median Plane which separates the stick into left and right portions.

Body Locations in relation to the Anatomical Position

One way that we can best understand the description of a body part and its location is through the knowledge of the planes and knowing the point of reference of that specific body part.


In the transverse plane, the body is divided into upper and lower halves.  Any structure that is located on the upper part would be “Superiorly located” while any structure found below would be “Inferiorly located.”

In the Coronal plane, wherein the body is divided in to two halves (front and back); any structure found closer to the front would be “Anteriorly located”, while any structure found nearer the back would be “Posteriorly located”.

In the Median plane, the body is divided into 2 equal parts; the left and the right portions.  Any structure nearer the center would be “Medially located”, and any structure farther from the middle would be “Laterally Located”.

Some other positions/locations are: 

Proximal and Distal

Proximal and Distal- structures found near the trunk would be “Proximally located”, while any structure found farther from the trunk would be “Distally located.”

Palmar and Dorsal- structures near to or within the palm of the hand are in the Palmar location, while any structures found at the back of the hand is called the Dorsal location.

Plantar and Dorsal- structures found at the sole would be in the Planter part of the foot, and any structure found at the top of the foot would be the Dorsal part of the foot.

Superficial and deep

Superficial and Deep- structure found to be near the surface of the skin is superficial, and the structures found to be below the skin surface is deep.

Ipsilateral and Contralateral- structure found to be at the same side of the reference organ or reference point is ipsilateral and the structure found to be on the other side would be contralateral.



Sep 27, 2011 4:27pm
I love how people with this knowledge (I'm a med student) know how to say things correctly. People will always say their heart is on the right side of the body, while you have to look from within the person, so it is left!
Sep 28, 2011 7:17pm
Anatomy is such a complex subject to the newbie, but once you have mastered it you realise how complex and well designed the body is. I am always amazed by how much knowledge my anatomy teachers have at my uni, I too am a medical student. Regarding your comment about the heart being on the left side, I was actually quite suprised to realise how medial the heart actually is, I use to have this idea that the heart was on the extreme lateral side of the left side of the body, but I think its much more medial than lateral.
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