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Guide To Human Anatomy
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When people hear the word “anatomy “ they immediately think about complex, thick, boring and heavy books. It is exactly like that, anatomy it is what it is: a long list of difficult names (most of them derived from Latin ), but is paramount to understanding how our body is composed.
At MiTo Healthcare Clinic we aim to create knowledge and awareness in patients, you don’t need to study for an anatomy exam but will come in handy know-how your spine is structured. Don’t worry we will use simple words and everything will be as schematic as possible to become a perfect anatomist….okay maybe not.
History Of Anatomy
Let’s begin our travel with a dive into the history of anatomy. Hope that this will arouse your curiosity.
The principle-Modern Age: Anatomy Is the field of science involved in the description and identification of the body components of living things.
Before the 5th century BCE, there is very little evidence of any anatomy studies: during the Stone Age, some civilizations are thought to have practiced skull trepanning intending to get rid of evil inside people’s bodies, but not to study them.
The Egyptians were practicing mummification, but they were only interested in organ removal rather than fully understanding and studying their function.
The first real study of anatomy started in ancient Greek around the 5th century BCE, Hippocrates was one of the first anatomists in the world after him there was Aristotle who was the first to do animal dissection methodically and systematically with the aim of learning body functioning.
After the decay of the Greek civilization, a few outposts of civilization survived and became crucial points for learning. One of the most famous ones was Alexandria. The majority of all the medical knowledge was held by different scholars in Alexandria’s library. Among these scholars, it is worth mentioning Herophilus, who is addressed to be the founder of anatomy since was the first man to do anatomical dissection.
Another physician who is considered one of the most contributors to anatomy was Claudius Galen (129-199 CE) a Greek physician who moved to Rome in the 2nd century CE and based all his studies on animals (mostly monkeys) because in Rome anatomical dissections were banned.
For centuries, all the anatomy was based on these inaccurate theories.
Around 700-1000 BCE after Constantinople’s fall and the beginning of the Dark Ages in Europe, many scholars from Arabia gave their contribution to the anatomy field: many insights regarding optics, pulmonary circulation, and neuroanatomy were discovered.
Later in the 1000-1300 BCE, the interest in medical knowledge started to spread even in Europe, the “ Schola Medica” school was founded in Salerno which became the main hub in Europe until the 14th century when Bologna’s university started to incorporate medical school.
Modern Age: In the 15th-16th century Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519), the famous renaissance artist and scientist performed many anatomical dissections (previously were forcefully banned by the Church and most of the studies were based on Galen theories) and draw several anatomical sketches putting the foundation of the actual modern anatomy. One of the most iconic masterpieces is the Vitruvian Man.
From the 16th century up to date: After Leonardo da Vinci’s contribution, the study of anatomy became more accurate, Andreas Vesalius is thought to be one of the major surgeons who contributed to creating the science field of anatomy with his studies on human dissection. He published in 1543 “De Humani Corporis Fabrica.
In the following centuries, the interest in human anatomy grew even more and public anatomical dissections were shown among the masses without any social distinction. One example of this can be found in the city of Padua in Italy where still can be seen a wooden anatomical theatre.
The dissections were held in the theatres, and some anatomists started to create true pieces of anatomical art from their specimens.
Nowadays the study of anatomy discovers a new frontier using microscopic technology becoming a highly specialized skill for those who want to study any form of medicine.
Human Body: Structure
A gross description of the human body would be that it is composed of a skeleton that is formed by bones, ligaments, and joints. The skeleton is the “architecture” that is built on the body; the human body is composed of organs, blood, muscles, and water which are the fundamental components, particularly water which represents 60% of our body composition. All these structures are wrapped by the skin which is the largest organ in the body and gives shape to human beings.
Despite the general gross description human is one of the most complex living beings on the planet Earth. From the outside, it appears like a single structure, but on the inside, it is composed of billions of highly organized and microscopic parts.
All the body components can be linked to 4 major categories: Systems, Organs, Tissues, and Cells. Despite this description being quite reductive, is quite useful for simplifying the learning process.
Systems are the most complex unit in the human body, they can be defined as an organization of different organs and body components arranged together to carry out a specific function. There are several of them: Reproductive, Urinary, Digestive, Cardiovascular, Lymphatic, Endocrine, Muscular, Nervous, Skeletal, and Integumentary.
Organs can be defined as units of the human body just like systems, but are smaller. They are formed by tissues (such as muscles, epithelium, nervous tissue, etc.) and can perform a specific function: lungs enable the breathing process. There are 78 organs in the body (skin included).
Tissues are practically a set of cells of the same kind, examples of this are muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, etc.
Cells are the smallest unit of our body, there are billions of them, and they form the entirety of our body, they can reproduce themselves and form bonds together and aggregate into more complex units such as tissues, organs, and systems.
The human body is composed of different systems and all of them are composed of organs and other structures; before explaining all the systems all by one, it is important to understand where all of them are located.
Our body is divided into 2 main cavities (figure 3): the dorsal cavity which is formed by the cranial and vertebral cavities and the ventral cavity which is composed of the thoracic, abdominal, and pelvic cavities. Looking at them more in detail:
- The Cranial cavity contains the brain and the meninges.
- The Thoracic cavity contains the esophagus, lungs, trachea, heart, large blood vessels, and nerves. The thoracic cavity is delimited by the ribs laterally and the diaphragm inferiorly.
- The Abdominal cavity is formed by the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and adrenal glands. The abdominal cavity is delimited superiorly by the diaphragm, inferiorly by the pelvic cavity,
- The Pelvic cavity is formed mostly by the urogenital system and the rectum. The pelvic cavity is delimited superiorly by the abdominal cavity, posteriorly by the sacral bone, and laterally by the pelvis.
- The Vertebral cavity contains the spinal cord and the spine as well.
Anatomists have divided the human abdomen into 9 regions, each single region defines an abdomen portion where a few organs are contained.
The 9 regions are:
- Right Hypochondriac Region: located in the superior right part of the abdomen within the right rib cage; this region contains a part of the liver, the gallbladder, the right kidney, and a part of the small intestine, the ascending and a part of the transverse colon.
- Epigastric Region: it is located in the middle of the 2 hypochondriac region, between the rib cages and below the sternum. It contains part of the liver, of the stomach, the edge of the spleen, part of the duodenum, the esophagus, part of the small intestine, part of the transverse colon, and part of the pancreas. It also contains the right and the left ureters.
- Left Hypochondriac Region: located in the superior left part of the abdomen within the left rib cage; this region contains a terminal part of the liver, a part of the stomach, a part of the small intestine, the tail of the pancreas, the left kidney, the transverse and the descending colon.
- Right Flank Region: defines the area between the right rib cage and the right iliac bone of the hip. Contains part of the liver, part of the gallbladder, part of the small intestine, part of the ascending colon, and part of the right kidney.
- Umbilical Region: located between the right and the left flank region, its center is the umbilicus. This area contains part of the duodenum, part of the stomach, the lower section of the left and right kidneys, the head of the pancreas, and a section of the transverse colon. It also contains part of the right and left ureters.
- Left Flank Region: defines the area between the left rib cage and the right iliac bone of the hip. Contains part of the descending colon, a part of the small intestine, and a part of the left kidney.
- Right Iliac Fossa: it is located in the right lower part of the abdomen, in the proximity of the anterior surface of the right iliac bone. Contains the appendix, the caecum, part of the right ovary and fallopian tube in females, a part of the small intestine and the ascending colon
- Hypogastric Region: it is located below the umbilicus region, the pubic bone defines its lower limit. Contains the right and left ureters, the sigmoid colon, the urinary bladder, the rectum, the uterus, part of the ovaries in females, and the prostate in males.
- Left Iliac Fossa: it is located in the left lower part of the abdomen, in the proximity of the anterior surface of the left iliac bone. Contains part of the left ovary and fallopian tube in females, a part of the small intestine, and part of the descending and sigmoid colon.
For a more detailed view of every single region, have a look at the picture below (Figure 4).
Human Body: Motions
The motion of our body is the result of a balance and harmony of dozens of muscles, organs, and, tissues which all together cooperate to perform naturally all the simple movements that every human being does every day: walking, running, shaking hands, closing eyes, etc.
All the movements occur in different planes (Figure 5):
- The Sagittal plane is vertical and divides the body into two halves or sides: left and right.
- The Coronal plane, which is vertical and runs from side to side of the body, divides body portions into anterior and posterior.
- The Medial plane is the plane that bisects the body in the midline marked by the navel, it is a part of the sagittal one.
- The Transverse plane, a horizontal plane, runs in the middle of the body and divides any portions into upper and lower.
The principal movements of our body are flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, rotation, protrusion, retrusion, elevation, depression, pronation and supination, circumduction, deviation, opposition, eversion, and inversion (Figure 6).
- Flexion: defined as a forward bending
- Extension: defined as a backward bending or straightening
- Abduction: defined as moving away from the midline of the body
- Adduction: defined as moving away from the midline of the body
- Circumduction: defined as the combination of the above movements
- Deviation: it is a term used for t wrist movements; according to the direction of the deviation, there is the ulnar deviation where your wrist is headed towards the ulnar bone and radial deviation where your wrist is headed towards the radial bone.
- Opposition: is one of the movements that characterized the human being, is defined as the approaching of the thumb to a finger.
- Eversion: it is related to the plantar area, and is defined as moving the plantar fascia far from the medial plane.
- Inversion: it is related to the plantar area, and is defined as moving the plantar fascia close to the medial plane.
The midline of the body is a fictional line that crosses the body from above the skull down to the floor. Divides the body into left and right.
Human Body: The Spine
The MiTo team will focus its attention on the spine, or vertebral column, which is considered always a crucial and fundamental area of treatment for any manual therapist.
The spine or vertebral column is composed of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine; it is also composed of the sacral bone and coccyx. Every single segment of the spine is composed of small circular-shaped bones called vertebrae. The column has very important and vital functions for our life: give protection to the spinal cord which runs through it and internal organs, allow us to move freely within the surrounding space, gives attachment to our muscles, and serve as a site for hematopoiesis (the process to create new blood cells).
What is the spinal cord? The spinal cord is a long tubular shape structure formed by nerves and cells (Figure 7). It is divided into 4 parts: cervical, thoracic lumbar, and sacral. On each side of the spinal cord emerges 31 pairs of nerves that run to every part of your body, and they are responsible for the sensory and motor function of your muscles, joints, skin, etc. It covers the electric signal from your brain to the rest of the body, without it, you will be in serious trouble!! So make sure to take good care of it, okay?
The spinal cord is coated by the 3 meninges that coat the brain: the pia, the arachnoid, and the dura. The dura is the tougher layer among the 3 meninges, and it represents the outer layer and gives protection to the spinal cord.
The 31 pairs of nerves are divided into 8 cervicals, 12 thoracics, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral, and 1 coccygeal nerve.
According to the different regions, nerves can run below the corresponding vertebra at the same level or, like the upper lumbar and thoracic region, where the difference between the spinal cord and the vertebrae is 3 segments.
As mentioned before, the nerves coming from the spinal cord are responsible for the motor and sensory function of the skin, the segment innervated by a specific nerve root is called a Dermatome (Figure 8) you can see a map of every single dermatome, any damage to a specific nerve root will cause disturbances in the specific mapped area.
The spinal cord is formed inside by the white and the grey matter. The white matter is formed by myelin, which is a lipid substance; its function is to coordinate and send brain signals from one region of the cerebrum to another, and also from the cerebrum to the spinal cord and other areas of the brain.
The grey matter is formed by cell bodies of neurons, and it is divided into the dorsal horn, intermediate column, lateral horn, and ventral horn. All of these components have the function to transmit the motor, the sensory information, and innervating the pelvic and visceral organs.
Generally, the spinal nerves are organized into laminae (due to their disposition) and nuclei. Every single nucleus has a specific function like regulating mechanical and temperature sensation for a specific body area.
Be aware that there is more detailed information about the spinal cord, but it would take pages and pages for us to describe everything.
Our goal is always to create awareness and provide medical knowledge to our patients in the most simple way possible, giving you just all the necessary information.
The vertebral column, as we mentioned before, is formed by a small segment called vertebrae. The vertebrae have a particular structure that changes accordingly to the different areas (cervical vertebrae are different compared to lumbar ones), but they have a common structure which is characterized by:
The vertebral body is a thick cylindrical-shaped bone that carries most of the load received by a vertebra; between 2 vertebral bodies, there is an intervertebral disc, a shock absorber component.
The vertebral arch, a bony arch-shaped part, constitutes the posterior and lateral part of each single vertebrae, and it is formed by 2 pedicles that connect the vertebral body to the transverse process and 2 laminae that connect the transverse and the spinous process.
The spinous process, a bony protrusion at the back of each single vertebrae, protrudes exactly where the 2 laminae join together in the vertebral arch. The spinous process is a common site of attachment for different muscles and ligaments.
The transverse process, a small bony projection of each side of the vertebra, is a common site of attachment for ligaments and muscles.
The intervertebral disc is formed by a nucleus pulposus (a spongy-gelatinous sac that distributes all the pressure equally all over the disc) and the annulus fibrosus (a circular disc of elastic fibers that has the role to protect the nucleus pulposus).
The foramen transversarium is a lateral small cavity located on both sides of the vertebral body that allows the nerves that come from the spinal cord to run through the vertebra giving supply (nerve conduction or impulse) to the muscles.
The facet joints are plane surfaces between your vertebrae that slide through each other.
The ligaments are powerful bands of elastic tissue that stabilize and protect your joints.
The muscles are segments of different shapes of contractile tissue which allow us to move our joints such as the shoulder, neck, lower back, knee, etc.).
The nerves come from the spinal cord and run specifically into a cavity (foramen transversarium) inside your vertebra.-
Taking a look at the pictures below will help you visualize more clearly what we are talking about (Figure 9).
Human Body: Summary
Learning even a bit of anatomy can be quite demanding; for this reason, we have summed up all the blog content in small bullet points, so you can quickly go through again what you have just read.
1. The history of human anatomy started a long time ago in the Stone Age and has developed through the ages to us. Among the most important anatomy scholars can be named: Herophilus, Galen, Leonardo da Vinci, and Andreas Vesalius.
2. The human body has a complex structure composed of systems, organs, tissue, and cells which are the smallest unit of the body.
3. The anatomists have divided the body into main cavities. There are 2 cavities: the ventral cavity and the dorsal cavity.
4. The abdomen for study, treatment, and diagnosis has been divided into 9 regions: the left and right hypochondriac regions, the epigastric region, the left and right flank regions, the umbilical region, the right and left iliac fossa, and the hypogastric region.
5. The human body can perform many motions, all of which occur in different planes called: sagittal, coronal medial, and transverse planes.
6. The vertebral column is one of the most crucial parts of our body, it is composed of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine; it is also composed of the sacral bone and coccyx.
7. In our vertebral column, there is a long tubular-shaped structure called the spinal cord. The spinal cord is fundamental for our life, it covers the electrical sign in all the different areas of our body: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral segments. The spinal cord contains 31 pairs of nerves, each single nerve innervates a specific segment of the body called the dermatome.
8. The vertebral column is formed of single ring-shaped bones called vertebrae. Inside the vertebrae, there are several components: the spinous process, the transverse process, the body, the intervertebral disc, the intervertebral arch, and the foramen transversarium.
Human Body: User Guide
This section has been written to teach you how to use all the information contained in this blog post, as it is not as easy as it may seem to process all the anatomical theory and make wise use of it.
How does knowing about the history of anatomy, how your body moves, and what is under your skin may come in handy in your daily life?
1. Knowing a bit of the history of anatomy probably won’t help you anyway, but maybe it will spark some interest to know a little more about the subject.
2. Having minimal knowledge of your body is paramount to becoming aware of what is going on within your body every day.
3. Being aware of the anatomy will help you to decide quickly if it is better to seek medical advice for your condition, avoiding any delays.
4. Knowing how your body moves, will make you more comfortable if you ever have to do any exercises.
5. This is the introduction for all the anatomical blog posts of MiTo Healthcare Clinic, so reading it will help you understand the other content of the website.
Remember that if you have any doubts or concerns regarding your health, always seek medical advice! Don’t be a self-proclaimed doctor!
Human Body: Curious Things About Anatomy
- The entire surface of your skin is changed every month, if you think about it, you will have approximately 1000 different skins in your entire life.
- The only muscle that never tires is the heart.
- You’re taller in the morning. You’re roughly 1 cm taller than your usual height. This is because when you put your feet to the ground and your body is subjected to its weight and gravity, the discs between your bones are squashed and compressed.
- The human brain represents 2 % of our body and weighs approximately 1.5 kg, but curiously it uses about 20% of our energy. It is little but is a hard worker.
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Human Body: Bibliography
All the information from this blog is made with passion, love, and expertise by the MiTo team, always relying on what science says.
1. Habbal, O., 2017. The Science of Anatomy: A historical timeline. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, 17(1), pp.e18-22.
2. C, D., V, R. and A, A., 2022. Anatomy, Back, Vertebral Column. [online] PubMed. Available at: <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30247844/#:~:text=The%20vertebral%20column%20(spine)%20 defines,up%20the%20axial%20skeletal%20system.>
3. Bogduk, N., 2016. Functional anatomy of the spine. Handbook of Clinical Neurology, pp.675-688.
4. Bican, O., Minagar, A. and Pruitt, A., 2013. The Spinal Cord. Neurologic Clinics, 31(1), pp.1-18.
5. Lu, T. and Chang, C., 2012. Biomechanics of human movement and its clinical applications. The Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences, 28(2), pp.S13-S25.
6. A, M., G, P. and P, K., 2022. The history and the art of anatomy: a source of inspiration even nowadays. [online] PubMed. Available at: <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24640590/>
7. All the pictures have been provided by Unsplash and Wikimedia commons
Human Body: Medical Disclaimer
Although the MiTo team is composed of healthcare practitioners, we are not your healthcare practitioners (yet XD). All the content on this website is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. We always strive to provide an accurate and reliable source of information, but the information on this website does not substitute any professional advice and you should not rely solely on this blog content. Always seek medical-professional advice in the area of your particular needs or circumstances before making any decision concerning your health
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