Anatomy Principles

Anatomical Position

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An appreciation of the anatomical position is essential. It is a standardised reference point from which anatomists can describe to location of structures. Movements of the body are also described with reference to the anatomical position.

Key Images

Key Info

Features of the anatomical position:
- Standing upright with feet together and toes pointing forward
- Arms by the side with palms facing forward
- Fingers straight with pad of the thumb at 90 degrees to the fingers
- Neutral facial expression, looking forward
- Frankfurt plane parallel with the floor (line between inferior margin of orbit and superior aspect of external acoustic meatus). This is a good approximation of the normal position of the skull when an individiual is standing.

Clinical Anatomy

An appreciation of the anatomical position is particularly important when describing compartments of the upper limbs. 

When the forearm is rotated so that the palm faces posteriorly (pronation), structures that would be anterior in the anatomical position will now be posterior. However, they are still described at the anterior compartment of the forearm because that is where the are located when they are in the anatomical position!


The anatomical position is a standard reference for anatomists and allows accurate description of the location of anatomical structures.


RL Drake, W Vogl, AWM Mitchell. Gray's Anatomy for Student (2005). 39th Ed. Ediburgh: Elsevier.