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Hilton's law, espoused by John Hilton in a series of medical lectures given in 1860–1862, is the observation that in the study of anatomy, the nerve supplying the muscles extending directly across and acting at a given joint also innervate the joint.
For example, the musculocutaneous nerve supplies the elbow joint of humans with pain and proprioception fibres. It also supplies coracobrachialis, biceps brachii, brachialis, and the forearm skin close to the insertion of each of those muscles.
Hilton's law arises as a result of the embryological development of humans (or indeed other animals). Hilton based his law upon his extensive anatomical knowledge and clinical experiences. As with most British surgeons of his day (1805–1878), he intensely studied anatomy.
Extensions of the law
Hilton's law is described above. Similar observations can be made, to extend the theory; often a nerve will supply both the muscles and skin relating to a particular joint. The observation often holds true in reverse - that is to say, a nerve that supplies skin or a muscle will often supply the applicable joint.
Orthopedics By Leonard F. Peltier, pg 122
- Tasker, Dain L (1913). Principles of Osteopathy (3rd edition ed.). Los Angeles, California: Bireley & Elson Printing. Retrieved 2008-03-22.
- Hilton, J. (1863). On Rest and Pain: a Course of Lectures on the Influence of Mechanical and Physiological Rest in the Treatment of Accidents and Surgical Diseases, and the Diagnostic Value of Pain, delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons of England in the years 1860, 1861, and 1862
- Moore, Keith L. et al. (2010) Clinically Oriented Anatomy, 6th Ed, p.633