Planes and motions used in anatomy


Antoine Micheau - MD , Denis Hoa - MD

Published on

Friday 22 December 2017



Anatomical parts

Planes and motions used in anatomy

This module presents 11 anatomical diagrams illustrating the planes of anatomy, the anatomical position and the different types of movements of upper and lower limbs.
This anatomy course element is designed for students of medicine and paramedical studies.
This short module is essential in the introduction to the study of human anatomy, as the representations, diagrams, illustrations and anatomical descriptions are based on very precise concepts and definitions of the orientation of the human body in space.


Anatomical position of reference


Body upright, arms and forearms to the side, palms facing forward, thumbs apart, looking straight ahead with the bottom edges of the orbits and the upper edges of the external auditory meatus following a horizontal line (Frankfurt line).


Standard anatomical position : Diagram



Anatomical planes


There are three main section planes in anatomy:

  • Frontal or coronal plan: separates the anterior and posterior parts.
  • Sagittal plane (sagittal median = passes through the middle of the body and divides it into two equal parts left and right): separates the lateral and medial or right and left parts.
  • Transverse  or horizontal or axial plane: separating the upper and lower parts.



Planes - Human anatomy


Terms of localisation


  • Anterior (or ventral): from the front of the body.
  • Posterior (or dorsal): from behind the body.
  • Upper: from the top of the body.
  • Lower: from the bottom of the body.
  • Lateral and medial: respectively away from or towards the midline.
  • Palmar and dorsal: for the diagrams of the hand.
  • Plantar and dorsal: for the diagrams of the foot.
  • Cranial and caudal: equal to the upper and lower.
  • Proximal and distal: respectively closer and further away from the element of interest (for the upper and lower limbs, always with respect to the root of the limb).
  • Median: located in the midline.


The different types of movement


  • Pronation supination


Pronation/Supination : Drawings


  • Abduction adduction



Movements - Anatomy : Abduction, Adduction


  • Inversion / eversion


Inversion/Eversion : Movements


  • Lateral / medial rotation or external / internal



Lateral rotation; External rotation / Medial rotation; Internal rotation (Anatomical illustrations : Movements)


  • Antepulsion / retropulsion


Protraction/Retraction (Anatomy: Movements) : Medical illustrations


  • Flexion / extension


Flexion / Extension - Plantar flexion / Dorsiflexion (Human anatomy : Movements)


  • Circumduction: movement in three spatial planes


Circumduction : Anatomical illustrations



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