In this continued series on body movements of anatomy, I’m going to demonstrate dorsiflexion and plantarflexion (or plantar flexion), which are special movements involving the foot and ankle joint.
Dorsiflexion vs Plantarflexion
To help you understand this special movement, let’s break down the words.
Dorsal Side of the Foot (Dorsum)
Dorsal refers to the back (or upper) side of something. In my video on body cavities and membranes, I used the example of a dorsal fin of a dolphin to help you remember that dorsal refers to the backside of a surface. Your toenails are on the dorsal side of the foot, because they are on the back (or upper) side of it.
Plantar Side of Foot (Sole)
In contrast, plantar refers to the sole (or bottom) of the foot. If you’ve ever had a plantar wart, then you’ve had a wart on the sole of your foot (ouch!).
Flexion refers to the movement that decreases the angle between two surfaces or joints, usually within the sagittal plane of the body. Now, let’s put all these words together, and you’ll be able to remember the difference between plantarflexion vs dorsiflexion.
During dorsiflexion, the back (upper) side of the foot moves toward the shin, decreasing the angle between these two surfaces, leaving the toes pointing closer toward your head. When you try to walk on your heels only, you dorsiflex the foot. In Nurse Sarah’s preeclampsia and eclampsia review, she used dorsiflexion to assess for ankle clonus.
Plantar Flexion (Plantarflexion)
During plantar flexion, the sole of the foot angles downward toward the calf, decreasing the angle between those two surfaces, leaving the toes pointing farther away from the body. When you perform calf raises in the gym or walk on your tip toes, you plantar flex the foot. In her posturing review, Nurse Sarah showed an example of decerebrate posturing, during which plantar flexion occurs.
Free Quiz and More Anatomy Videos
Take a free dorsiflexion vs plantarflexion quiz to test your knowledge, or review our plantarflexion vs dorsiflexion video. In addition, you might want to watch our anatomy and physiology lectures on YouTube, or check our anatomy and physiology notes.