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ANAT101 Physiotherapy Anatomy 1

Unit rationale, description and aim

Physiotherapists work with people presenting with neuromusculoskeletal disorders of the upper limb, head, neck and trunk. An in depth understanding of upper limb and head, neck and trunk anatomy and functional anatomy is essential for safe and effective physiotherapy assessment and intervention. In this unit student will be required to develop and be able to demonstrate knowledge about upper limb, head, neck and trunk anatomy of the musculoskeletal system that is relevant to clinical presentations and to the practice of physiotherapy. A comprehensive study of the structure, function, nerve and blood supply of the upper limb, head, neck and trunk, necessary for physiotherapists, will be undertaken.

The overall aim for the unit is to prepare students for future clinical units and professional practice in the area of upper limb, head, neck and trunk musculoskeletal physiotherapy.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify, classify and describe the musculoskeletal structures of the shoulder, shoulder girdle, elbow, wrist and hand (GA5, GA8);

LO2 - Identify and describe the formation, branches and relations of the brachial plexus and the course and distribution of peripheral nerves of the upper limb (GA5, GA8);

LO3 - Identify and describe the structure and function of the vascular and lymphatic systems in the upper limb (GA5, GA8);

LO4 - Analyse the muscle actions and joint movements that occur in functional activities involving the upper limb and link them to how an individual with an impairment may present clinically in a physiotherapy practice setting (GA4, GA5, GA8);

LO5 - Identify, classify and describe the musculoskeletal structures of the head, neck and trunk (GA5, GA8).

LO6 - Reflect on the value and importance to their learning of the human cadaveric materials utilised in this unit (GA1). 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include:

  • Structure, function and movements of the joints of the upper limb
  • Sternoclavicular, acromioclavicular and glenohumeral joints
  • Radiohumeral and humeroulnar joints
  • Radioulnar joints
  • Radiocarpal and midcarpal joints
  • Joints of the hand
  • Form, attachments, actions and functions, and innervation of the muscles that move the shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist and fingers
  • Nerve supply to the upper limb
  • Brachial plexus
  • Motor and sensory distribution of nerves in the upper limb
  • Peripheral and spinal nerve lesions in the upper limb
  • Blood supply of the upper limb, lymphatic drainage of the upper limb
  • Surface anatomy of the upper limb
  • Palpation of upper limb anatomical structures of relevance to physiotherapy practice
  • Functional activity
  • Anatomical analysis of throwing
  • Structure, function and movements of the joints of the vertebral column and head
  • Intervertebral joints
  • Zygopophyseal joints
  • Temporomandibular joint
  • Form, attachments, actions and functions, and innervation of the muscles that move the head, neck and trunk
  • Lumbopelvic motion and control
  • Structure, function and movements of mastication, swallowing and speech
  • Nerve supply to the trunk
  • Blood supply of the trunk, lymphatic drainage of the trunk
  • Physiotherapy laboratory practice
  • Ethical and responsible handling of human remains
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Safety
  • Team work
  • Respect of peers

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit uses an active approach with on-campus lectures and practical classes that are supported by online activities.  Lectures allow teachers to convey necessary information so that students can gain an overall understanding and make connections between different components.  Lectures also provide opportunities for students to check their understanding and ask questions.  Practical classes will consolidate student learning in a supported environment using anatomical resources including cadavers.  In practical classes students will work collaboratively and engage in activities such problem solving to promote analysis, synthesis and evaluation of class content.  Online activities at the end of each week will provide students with feedback regarding their understanding of the relevant topic. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively within group activities, demonstrating respect for the individual as an independent learner.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy used allows students to progressively develop their knowledge of upper limb, head, trunk and neck musculoskeletal anatomy. The first assessment task primarily focusses on knowledge acquisition and assimilation. 

Assessment tasks 1 and 2 (written examinations) enable students to demonstrate acquisition, understanding and application of content presented in this unit.  

Assessment task 3 enables the students to demonstrate their ability to specifically identify anatomical structures on human cadavers/ images of human cadavers, models, x-rays and surface anatomy photos aligning with the use of this content in clinical practice.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Mid Semester Written Assessment

Enables students to demonstrate acquisition and understanding of content delivered in the first half of semester.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA8

End Semester Written Assessment

Enables students to demonstrate acquisition and understanding of content delivered over the second half of the semester.



GA4, GA5, GA8

End of semester spot test

Enables students to demonstrate acquisition and understanding of content delivered over the entire semester as well as their ability to identify structures on human cadavers/images of human cadavers, models, x-rays and surface anatomy photos.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8

Representative texts and references

Abrahams, P.H. (2019) McMinn’s Clinical Atlas of Human Anatomy, (8th Ed), ), Elsevier. ISBN- 9780702073328.

Cael, C. (2010) Functional Anatomy: musculoskeletal anatomy, kinesiology and palpation for manual therapists Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins

Drake, R., Vogl, W., & Mitchell, A. (2009). Grays anatomy for students (2nd ed.). London: Elsevier. 

Kapit, W and Elson, L.M. (2001) The Anatomy Colouring Book. Benjamin Cummings Publishing Company.

Levangie, P. K., & Norkin, C.C. (2005) Joint structure and function: A comprehensive analysis (4th ed.). Philadelphia: FA Davis Co.

Lumley, J. (2008). Surface anatomy: The anatomical basis of clinical examination (4th ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone. 

Moore, K. L. (2009). Clinically oriented anatomy (6th ed.).  Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 

Soames, R., & Palastanga, N. (2019) Anatomy and human movement (7th ed.). Elsevier. ISBN- 9780702072260

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