Supine Position Definition

The supine position is a term used in anatomy and medicine to describe an organism on its back. This position can be used to describe any organism with clear dorsal and ventral sides. In the supine position, the dorsal side or back goes towards the ground.

Supine Position Explained

Since the dorsal side is towards the ground, the ventral side then points toward the sky. The supine position is opposed to the prone position, where an animal or person is lying on their stomach. This can be seen in the image below.

Supine and prone

Few animals, besides humans, are readily found in the supine position. More generally, vertebrates use the prone position as it allows them to easily get up. A turtle in the supine position, for example, would have a hard time flipping over. In many animals, the supine position is only seen when the animal is sick or dead.

Uses of Supine Position

The supine position is used in a number of fields to orient a specimen, subject, or person into the correct orientation. For instance, many surgeries are conducted in the supine position to allow access to the majority of the internal organs. Other surgeries, like certain back surgeries, must be conducted with the patient in the prone position to allow access to the dorsal side of the spine. Other doctors may study how a patient sleeps using the supine position, noting that the supine position may raise blood pressure. A polysomnograph is a test done on a sleeping person which records how they sleep in various positions, supine included. The supine position is also used in veterinary medicine to position animals on their backs for various procedures.

Other, non-medical professionals also use the position. In comparative anatomy, scientists may place two different specimens in the supine position to compare their ventral anatomical features. In rehabilitation, sports training, weight-lifting, and yoga, the supine position is an important starting position. From this position, you can begin a wide variety of exercises and stretches. It should be noted that while the supine position is, in general, any position with the subject on its back, many professions and fields may have specific adjustments or nuances that accompany their field.