Anatomical Body Landmark

Anatomical Position

The first important thing in learning about anatomy and physiology is to know the anatomical position and body landmarks. To accurately describe body parts and position, initial reference point and directional terms should be used in a medical setting. The correct anatomical position is standing up (erect) with the feet parallel and the arms hanging at the sides with the palms facing forward and the thumbs pointing away from the body.

Body Landmarks

To precisely point out the chief complaint of a patient, the nurse or physician uses anatomical terms representing a certain body part. For example, a patient walks in the emergency room with a hacking wound on the posterior portion of the left lower leg. To clearly state the area of injury the nurse uses the term “sural” which means the posterior surface of the lower leg rather than writing “back area of the lower leg”. Knowing these terms not only give the nurse a more accurate formulation of chief complaints but it also saves time of a good deal of description.

Anatomical Body Landmark

Anterior Body Landmarks
  • Abdominal – anterior body trunk inferior to ribs
  • Acromial – point of shoulder
  • Antecubital – anterior surface of elbow
  • Axillary – armpit
  • Brachial – arm
  • Buccal – cheek area
  • Carpal – wrist
  • Cervical – neck region
  • Coxal – hip
  • Crural – leg
  • Digital – fingers, toes
  • Femoral – thigh
  • Fibular – lateral part of the leg
  • Inguinal – area where thigh meets body part
  • Nasal – nose area
  • Oral – mouth
  • Orbital – eye area
  • Patellar – anterior knee
  • Pelvic – area overlying the pelvis anteriorly
  • Pubic – genital region
  • Sternal – breastbone area
  • Tarsal – ankle region
  • Thoracic – chest
  • Umbilical – navel
Posterior Body Landmark
  • Calcaneal – heel of foot
  • Cephalic – head
  • Deltoid – curve of shoulder formed by large deltoid muscle
  • Femoral – thigh
  • Gluteal – buttock
  • Lumbar – area of back between ribs and hips
  • Occipital – posterior surface of head
  • Olecranal – posterior surface of elbow
  • Popliteal – sacral
  • Scapular – shoulder blade region
  • Sural – posterior surface of the lower leg
  • Vertebral – area of spine
  • Plantar – sole of the foot
Directional Terms

To clearly explain exactly the relation of a body structure to each other, directional terms are used. For example to describe the relationship or location of the heart to the arms, we can say “the heart is located in between the arms”. Using anatomical terminology, this is expressed as “the heart is medial to the arms.” Hence, it is a more clear and precise statement.

  • Superior – above
  • Inferior – below
  • Anterior – in front of
  • Posterior – behind
  • Medial – middle
  • Lateral – away from the middle; at outer the sides
  • Intermediate – between a more medial and a more a lateral surface
  • Proximal – close to the body part
  • Distal – away from a body part
  • Superficial – external; at the surface
  • Deep – internal; away from the surface



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