What do the words mean!? - Directional planes

Directional plane terms are used commonly by vets and physios alike to describe the positioning and location of specific structures in relations to other surrounding structures of and in the body. As well as giving you a clear insight into the area in which someone is talking about these terms are also used in many muscle names which give a good indication into where you can find them!


For example:

The muscle Rectus (meaning straight muscle) Capitis (meaning by the head) Dorsalis (meaning the back or top of the surface) which means you can find this muscle behind the head lying on the top portion of the neck


Or


Longissimus (meaning the longest one) Dorsi (meaning of the back) so you would find this muscle running from the top of the head to the tail running along the back



Today were focusing on the main body of the horse and dog with the legs and skeleton to come!


Cranial and caudal

Cranial: means towards the head or the front of

Caudal: means towards the tail or at the back of

All these terms can be used relatively for example the neck is cranial to the shoulder because it is placed in front of shoulder where as the neck is then caudal to the head as it sits behind the head.



Dorsal and ventral

Dorsal: means towards the back or top of

Ventral: means towards the belly or bottom of

The eyes are dorsal to the mandible (lower jaw) where as the eyes are ventral to the ears.



However when describing the head it doesn’t have a cranial portion it is known as..

Rostral and caudal

Rostral: means towards the nose

Caudal: means towards the ears or back of the head


Forelimb and Hindlimb proximal and distal

Proximal: means above or towards the top of the limb

Distal: means below or towards the bottom of the limb

All these terms can be used relatively for example the elbow is distal to the shoulder as it lays below it but the elbow is then proximal to the carpals because it sits above the carpals.


Forelimb and Hindlimb cranial and caudal

Cranial: means the side of the limb that is closest to the head from the carpals to shoulder (for the forelimb) and the tarsals to the pelvis (for the hindlimb)

Caudal: means the side of the limb that is furthest from the head from the carpals to shoulder (for the forelimb) and the tarsals to the pelvis (for the hindlimb)


Forelimb dorsal and palmar

Dorsal: means the side of the limb that is closest to the head from the carpals down to the hoof/paw

Palmar: means the side of the limb that is furthest from the head from the carpals down to the hoof/paw


Hindlimb dorsal and plantar

Dorsal: means the side of the limb that is closest to the head from the tarsals down to the hoof/paw

Plantar: : means the side of the limb that is furthest from the head from the tarsals down to the hoof/paw



An easy way to remember which limb is palmar or plantar is the forelimbs which would be a humans arms has hands with a palm or palmar whereas hindlimb which is the equivalent to a humans legs which have feet that you plant or plantar on the ground!


Forelimb and Hindlimb medial and lateral

Medial: means the side of the limb closest to the midline of the body (on the inside)

Lateral: means the side of the limb furthest to the midline of the body (on the outside)