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Anatomical Directional Terminology: Limbs, Hands & Feet

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  • 0:08 The Directional…
  • 0:35 Palmar, Dorsal and Plantar
  • 1:55 Proximal and Distal
  • 3:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
In this lesson, you'll learn how we term the different sides of our feet and hands thanks to words like dorsal, plantar and palmar. You'll also learn how we name something that is near or far away from the trunk of our body thanks to words like proximal and distal.

The Directional Terminology of Our Appendages

If you're into gardening, then you certainly love to use your palms to plant all sorts of beautiful flowers. If you haven't caught on already, that last sentence had a couple of clues as to what we're going to learn about in this lesson: namely, discussing the basic terminology with respect to the appendages of our body, that is to say, the feet that move our body and the hands that carry the flower bulbs we're going to be planting.

Palmar, Dorsal and Plantar

The palmar aspect of the hand pertains to the palm.
Palmar

With that in mind, take a look at the flower bulbs in the palm of your hand. The side of your hand that is palming, or grasping, the flower bulbs is called the palmar aspect of your hand, which, again, is a term that describes something located in, on or pertaining to the palm of the hand. The opposite side of your hand, the back of your hand, is called the dorsal aspect of the hand. The term 'dorsal' refers to something that is towards the back of something. In this case, it's the back of our hand.

Those of you who love animals will have no trouble remembering the definition of the term dorsal. I'm sure you've heard of a dorsal fin that marine mammals and fish have. It's the fin on their back. Hence, dorsal pertains to the back of something.

The sole of the foot is referred to as the plantar surface.
Plantar

Well, as you dream of freeing Willy, you'll walk over to where you're going to plant the bulbs that will turn into soulful flowers. While walking, you'll also plant your feet as you walk. Hence, the plantar surface refers to the sole of the foot. The sole of the foot is like the palm of the hand while the back-side, so to speak, of the foot is known as the dorsal surface, just like the back of the hand.

Proximal and Distal

As you toil away, planting the bulbs, you manage to get a couple of scratches. One of the scratches is on your wrist and the other is on your upper arm. With respect to your body's appendages, the point on an appendage that is nearer the body from which an appendage is originating is known as the proximal point, whereas the point farther away from the body from which an appendage is originating is known as the distal point. Both of these words are relative and not absolute. This means that something is considered to be proximal or distal relative to its position to something else.

The Vitruvian Man helps illustrate anatomical position.
vitruvian man

We can use a modified version of Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man (seen above) to help illustrate this point. In this image, a man's entire arm radiates out of its point of attachment at the torso at a point we call the shoulder. Therefore, the cut on your upper arm is closest to the trunk of your body, and is therefore the proximal-most cut and is proximal to the cut at the wrist. The cut at the wrist is the distal-most cut, and is distal to the cut on the upper arm since your wrist is farthest away from the trunk of the body.

A cut on your wrist is distal because it is further from your trunk than is a cut on your arm.
Proximal and Distal

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