I'm trying to indicate which side of a finger an injury has occurred (e.g., a cut). Depending on orientation of the hand left/right / sinister/dexter seems ambiguous. I look at my palms it's one way, the back of my hand, the other way.

How would I say something like the following without having to reference another finger as a landmark.

The the ring finger on the left hand was cut on the side closest to the pinky. 

Would it be appropriate to say "the forth digit was cut on the ulnar side"? Or is there a different/better convention one would follow for this?

(I'm probably over thinking this, but I'm nothing if not pedantic)

2 Answers 2


In general in these situations the medial/lateral terminology is used, however in case of hands/feet due to the ability to pronate and supinate this might lead to confusion, therefore specific terms "radial, ulnar" are preferred.

...for clarity, the sides are named after the bones. Structures closer to the radius are radial, structures closer to the ulna are ulnar.



One may use anatomical terminology as in if the injury is on that side of a digit which is near to the midline then one may say that the medial side of fourth finger was injured. The other side which is away from midline is the lateral side. More specifically there are other terms eg anterior posterior, to indicate the front or back surface of a hand/finger. I will recommend you to go through the article for the reference and a better understanding of the anatomical terminologies. This convention is used in anatomy to for determining the exact side. For a standard article on this convention This is an article from a manual- Human bone manual-(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780120884674500090)

Also the convention used for which finger is talked about, this may help. There is a convention to follow how a human being is positioned so that there is no ambiguity as to how the palm is facing to define medial/lateral positions

I hope I have answered your question :)

  • 2
    It is generally accepted that as in this picture: biologydictionary.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/… the forearm is held with the palm of hand towards the front of the body, therefore the thumb is lateral and the pinky is medial. If you want to deviate from this, you can use radial and ulnar (radial = thumbwards of the hand in neutral position and ulnar = pinkywards in the neutral position).
    – Thomas
    Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 20:26
  • I have edited the answer to include a reference for determining the finger/toe using standard convention.
    – Ojasvi
    Commented Jun 24, 2020 at 0:24
  • 1
    @Bryan Krause sorry, I misunderstood. There is a convention for the position of a human being so that there is no ambiguity. You may check this-(en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_anatomical_position) according to which, the palms should be placed forward. Thanks for pointing this out. I have added this in my answer
    – Ojasvi
    Commented Jun 24, 2020 at 16:26
  • 1
    While anatomically correct, in practice I‘ve seen radial/ulnar be used much more often to avoid possible confusion.
    – Narusan
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 10:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.