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Distal vs Proximal

Meaning and difference between the two directional terms distal and proximal.

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Hi there! It's Matt from Kenhub, and in this video tutorial, we will discuss the terms distal and proximal. If I were giving you directions to the local coffee shop, I would tell you that it's on the left after you've passed the gas station and before you get to the stoplight. The terms before and after give a sense of place in the sentence even though they relate to time. We are familiar with this method of giving and receiving direction.

In anatomy, we also have words that give direction so that we can locate places on the human body. All terms are based on a human in anatomical position which is faced front, standing with palms forward.

The words we are discussing today are proximal and distal, which is kind of the anatomists' way of saying near and far respectively. The terms relate to the distance from the center of the body or the point of attachment. Distal means situated away from the center of the body or point of attachment and proximal means situated close to the center of the body or point of attachment. It may help to think of distal as distance and proximal as proximity.

For example, in relation to the center of the body, the elbow is distal to the shoulder, the shoulder is proximal to the elbow, the hand is distal to the distal, the elbow is proximal to the hand. So, if you are trying to tell someone over the phone where your new tattoo is, you could say, "Dude, it looks sweet. It's on proximal end of my right forearm". This would give them a clear idea of where the tattoo is, but not quite the exact location.

Watch this space for another tutorial featuring the term dorsal and ventral, and you will be able to tell them right where that tattoo is located.

Now that you just completed this video tutorial, then it’s time for you to continue your learning experience by testing and also applying your knowledge. There are three ways you can do so here at Kenhub. The first one is by clicking on our “start training” button, the second one is by browsing through our related articles library, and the third one is by checking out our atlas.

Now, good luck everyone, and I will see you next time.

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