A is for Anatomy

There are 214 bones in an adult human skeleton, 650 muscles in a human body, close to 1000 ligaments, approximately 20 visceral organs, about a dozen organ systems, millions of nerves and thousands of arteries.

I, like all other Naturopathic Doctors, Medical doctors, Nurses, Massage therapists, Physiotherapists, Kinesiologists  etc. etc. etc.  know of them all.

One of the first things we learn in medical school is the musculoskeletal system of the human body. There are A LOT of muscles and several bones.  There are almost 60 muscles and 22 bones in the head and face alone!!

Along with all 800 some-odd names, we learn the origination point of the muscle, where it inserts, it’s action, it’s vascular innervation (the blood that nourishes the muscle) and it’s nervous innervation (the nerves that controls the muscle).

A medical education is one of the largest tasks a human memory can undertake.

You need to learn how to speak an entirely new language, while also learning latin  and while attempting to comprehend a  3D complexity similar to that of quantum physics.

Ever heard of a zygomatic bone, a lacrimal duct, a spheno-madibular ligament, a popliteal artery or a peroneal nerve?

It is my belief that a sound knowledge of the physical body is crucial for any type of physician.  To understand pathology it is first vital we understand how the body works under optimal conditions, and this journey must ultimately begin with the physical body in all its beautiful glory.

Muscles begin on an attachment point, often a bone and then stretch to lengthen or shorten to contract in order to move a part of our body.  My favorite example is Iliopsoas: A combination of fibers from the Iliacus muscle and Psoas muscle.

Iliacus originates from the inner surface of the iliac fossa, the bone we commonly call the hip bone and is one of only two muscles (the other being psoas) to insert on the lesser trochanter of the largest bone in our bodies, the femur (commonly called the thigh bone).  Psoas, iliacus’s best bud originates from the vertebral bodies of T12-to L5 and the transverse processes of L1-L5.

Iliopsoas is my favorite muscle because it is the primary muscle to flex the hip. The hip is the largest joint in the body, (medically referred to as the acetabular-femoral joint). Being able to lift your thigh is pretty neat. It’s required to walk  and hey its best friends with our hip extensors and without them both we would still be on all fours. Walking, and lifting a leg requires the organized movement of fibers that come from our spine, the entire face of our hip, and fibers that extend all the way to a notch on our femur right around the pelvis. Iliopsoas is pretty much the only muscle that originates in the spine and goes all the way to the leg.  Awesome. (I think!)

The other reason I like Iliopsoas is its medical relevance. It’s often a tight pissed off angry muscle, and is one of the primary causes of back pain and sway back. *****If you are someone who sits all the time and has a desk job there is a VERY likely chance that your ilopsoas is tight. Just say’n

So why do we spend hours and hours learning anatomy in medical school?

The muscles, bones and the other parts of our anatomy make up the physicality of what it is to be human.  Learning anatomy allows us to label parts of our humanity and importantly, it is a part of humanity that we can touch and easily conceptualize.  Anatomy is physically vast; but wholistically a very small part of what it is to be human…..   It provides a name  for parts of our whole.  It is an introduction to a common medical language.


A is for Anatomy my friends… and this doctor to be thinks it’s the perfect starting point in a practitioner’s  journey to understanding the body.

Next Sunday,  B is for Biomedical Sciences.

For now, keep on reading on.  🙂


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