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The Easy Way To Learn Anatomy

Establishing a strong foundation in anatomy early on is crucial as a physiotherapy student as it forms the basis of your professional knowledge including clinical conditions, interventions and patient safety. Although it takes continuous repetition to master the intricate details of the human body, dedicating time and effort to this subject, in the beginning, will make it easier to remember and truly understand later. While anatomy may seem intimidating, there are numerous tips and tricks available to help you master anatomy.

Anatomical landmarks

To begin acquainting yourself with muscles, bones, and nerves, utilising specific landmarks is highly recommended. Similar to famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben which are easily recognisable and significant attractions, landmarks should be sought after in different regions of the body. One way to approach this is by thinking about how we give directions, often using landmarks to guide ourselves or others. Using these recognisable landmarks instead of the specific street names makes it easier to remember and follow directions, just as navigating through the body requires the identification of landmarks.

An example of how this works is observing the cubital fossa where the structures around the cubital fossa can be challenging to differentiate from one another. To make it easier, a mnemonic "n-TAN" can be used, where the letters indicate the radial nerve (n), biceps tendon (T), brachial artery (A), and median nerve (N), respectively, when read from lateral to medial. In this case, the biceps tendon serves as the landmark as it is prominent and difficult to miss. Following the mnemonic, the radial nerve is located lateral to the biceps tendon, and the brachial artery is medial to it. This technique can also be useful while taking blood pressure, where the biceps tendon can guide you to the location of the brachial artery, situated just medial to it. Knowing anatomy is critical, and landmarks can aid in the process of mastering it.

Mnemonics & repetition

Anatomy can be made easier with the use of mnemonics. Remembering everything at once can be challenging, and mnemonics can be a great help. Physiotherapists have to differentiate between many structures, including bones, muscles (with their actions, origins, and insertions), nerves, blood supply, and more. The vast number of structures and functions to remember can be overwhelming, so mnemonics can be a useful tool for storing individual pieces of information in your long-term memory.

To illustrate the usefulness of mnemonics, let's take the example of the cubital fossa we discussed earlier. You can either learn each structure individually (as four separate items), or use a mnemonic that condenses all the information into one item. Mnemonics enable you to remember the entire region as a single entity, provide a sequence for the structures within the region, and assist with the recall of individual structures. By creating distinct mnemonics for each region of the body, you can learn and retain the information more quickly and meaningfully.

When you are first learning new material, repetition is critical because you will need to recall it throughout your career. The AcePhysio question bank provides spaced repetition without you having to laboriously think about planning your revision schedule as it automatically allocates questions for you to practise based on your areas of development. The process of repetition for anatomy will enable you to retain relevant anatomical information in the long term.

Learn better together

Studying in small groups can be an effective technique to learn anatomy and keep the learning experience interesting. It can be useful to look for friends who share your learning style or possess different learning styles and create a small study group. This is a valuable method that can be used throughout your time at University as it allows for knowledge sharing. One person may have a unique approach for memorising information or an alternate method of explaining a concept that may prove beneficial to others.

Small study groups are also helpful when learning muscle actions, origins and insertions, as well as identifying structures in the dissection room. Small study groups give you the chance to teach muscle actions, origins and insertions to others by taking on the role of the instructor. There are several methods to accomplish this, such as using a skeleton to demonstrate where each muscle originates and inserts, identifying muscles, nerves, or bony landmarks, or explaining the actions of muscles and the joints they cross.

Final words

As experts in movement, Physios must develop a thorough understanding of fundamental concepts such as anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics to effectively comprehend the movement of the body as a whole when working with patients. Understanding anatomy is a key starting point to achieving this. It is important to discover a study technique that is well-suited to your personal learning style and consistently follow that particular technique over time to benefit from it. Comment below if you have any tips that have personally helped you learn anatomy!

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