Distal/Proximal...so confused!

  1. I need help! I am taking my first A&P class and for some reason...I cannot grasp the directional concepts of distal and proximal! Why am I so confused???
    How is the hip proximal to the ankle? or proximal to the wrist?

    Can someone please help me understand these 2 terms???

    Thanks in advance for your help!
    S
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  2. 12 Comments

  3. by   danaRN2b
    I just always try to remember that distal means away from, or distant from something. With proximal, I try to think about when you're close to someone you're in close proximity...proximal is close to something. I don't know if that helps or not, but it may stick with you a bit. Just hang in there, it'll fall into place eventually! Good luck with A&P!
  4. by   LeesieBug
    The way I remember distal and proximal is that DIStal is at the furthest DISTANCE from the point of origin. Proximal being closer to the point of origin. As far as the point of origin, that is relative to whatever you are referring to.

    Don't know if that helps at all.


    A simple definition of the two, without a bunch of mumbo jumbo:

    Distal:situated away from the point of attachment or origin or a central point especially of the body

    Proximal:next to or nearest the point of attachment or origin, a central point, or the point of view; located toward the center of the body
  5. by   rpbear
    First you have to place the body in "anatomical position". That is standing with arms at sides palms forward.

    Distal is anything that is more distant from the attachment point of the body. Proximal is anything that is closer to the attachment point. I think it is from the attachemnt point. Someone correct me if I am wrong.

    Example:
    The elbow is distal to the shoulder but proximal to the wrist.

    I always remember that distal is distant! It works every time.

    Good luck!
  6. by   adrienurse
    My favorite was the trick for supination and pronation. If you hold your palms in front of you like a bowl it's SOUP-ination. hold your palms facing downwards it's pronation.
  7. by   PennyLane
    That's how I remembered supination and pronation, too.

    As far as proximal/distal, I was a bit confused at first when they would say, "the elbow is proximal to the wrist" b/c the wording seemed awkward. Just think, "the elbow is closer (to the body) than the wrist". Eventually the wording will make more sense as you become used to using it.
  8. by   LilgirlRN
    think of distal as the thing most far away from the body.. i too think of distance. for proximal i think in terms of being in close proximity to the body.
  9. by   PJMommy
    Originally posted by adrienurse
    My favorite was the trick for supination and pronation. If you hold your palms in front of you like a bowl it's SOUP-ination. hold your palms facing downwards it's pronation.
    Yep...that's my trick also. And...PROnation is like dribbling a ball in PROfessional basketball.
  10. by   rn2be2006
    You guys are great! Thank you so much for clarifying! I now understand it much better. I think I can do this!
  11. by   layla100
    Hi, Now I AM confused! Is the wrist distal to the hand? or proximal? And why is it that answer. (with respect to point of origin) Thank you!!
  12. by   Saysfaa
    The wrist is proximal to the hand. Proximal and distal don't compare the wrist to the hand, they compare the [wrist to the torso] vs [the hand to torso]. The wrist is in closer proximity to where the limb attaches to the torso than the wrist is.
  13. by   turnforthenurse
    Quote from adrienurse
    My favorite was the trick for supination and pronation. If you hold your palms in front of you like a bowl it's SOUP-ination. hold your palms facing downwards it's pronation.
    That or "supine" kind of sounds like "SPINE" - you're laying on your spine (face up) and then of course prone is the other way around lol.
  14. by   layla100
    NOW that makes sense.... I didn't know if those term were referencing a general point of attachment (which would still be confusing), or if the TORSO is meant as a reference (with everything) when using the terms Proximal & Distal. Thanks for the clear reply!

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