Does this scenario sound familiar?

You’re looking at a chart of muscles, your eyes are glazing over, and you are faced with

“Flexes distal and middle phalanges of each finger at interphalangeal joints, proximal phalanx of each finger at metacarpophalangeal joints, and hand at wrist joint.”

How are you going to memorize that on top of everything else you’ve studied this week?  How are you ever supposed to make that stick?

Stop a moment to think about the words actually mean.  Try making the motion yourself.  When you realize that the action for flexor digitorum profundus is just glorified medspeak for “makes a fist,” doesn’t it get easier?

Actions really do speak louder than words, at least as far as the memory is concerned.

One of the cool things I’ve learned from my anatomy and physiology class is that lots of muscles have nifty little nicknames that make their actions easier to remember.

Exhibit 1: Supraspinatus

“The Suitcase Muscle”

Supraspinatus on its own is responsible for the first 15° of abduction of the humerus (after that point, the middle fibers of the deltoid finally kick in and do most of the work).  This is pretty much the motion needed to hold a suitcase far enough away from your body to keep it from hitting your legs.

Kat modeling her suitcase-carrying prowess.

This is great to know, because it’s SO much easier for me to remember that supraspinatus is the suitcase muscle than the fact that it “assists the deltoid muscle in abducting the arm at the shoulder joint.”

[As an aside, I'm aware that supraspinatus isn't as big as it is in the picture.  I write for a reason, and that reason is that I REALLY CAN'T DRAW.  Let's just assume that you get the general idea, okay?]

Of course, not every muscle’s nickname appeals to me.  This next one is supposedly called “The Tailor Muscle,” but most tailors don’t sit around in the windows of their shops with their sewing hanging over their knees anymore.  So I renamed it in a way that I, a professional childcare provider, will remember the darn thing instead of getting confused.

Exhibit 2: Sartorius

“The Criss-Cross Applesauce Muscle”

Sartorius does all kinds of cool stuff, simultaneously flexing the leg at the knee joint, and weakly flexing, abducting, and laterally rotating the thigh at the hip joint.  Anyone who sits on the floor much is intimately familiar with this action.

Also, Stitch told me to tell you folks “hi.”

Sometimes, there’s no really good traditional nickname for a muscle, but one presents itself in your mind as soon as you try out the action.  These are the best kind of muscle action mnemonic nicknames.  The ones that are so obvious to that weird, creative part of your brain that you just have to invent them on the spot.  These are the ones you’ll never forget.  This last one was like that for me.

Exhibit 3: Gracilis

“The Super Excited Girly Girl Vaguely Reminiscent of Sailor Moon Muscle”

I can't believe I wore a skirt and heels to get this picture.

Gracilis adducts the thigh at the hip joint, medially rotates the thigh, and flexes the leg at the knee joint.  Try this action without feeling like a pretty pretty princess.  I dare you.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Much thanks to my exceedingly patient husband Jef, who took all kinds of silly pictures of me in public in order to make this post possible.

Thoughts?  Actions? Ideas for the next LMT or Bust study tips photo shoot?  Drop a comment and let me know!

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