Anatomical Terms Related to Movement of the Body

Joints are formed where two or more bones meet. Different sets of muscles are present to bring about movements at the joints. While describing movements of the body, it is assumed that the body is in anatomical position, unless mentioned otherwise.

Here we discuss the anatomical terms related to the general movements of the body. While movements of the thumb, fingers, and toes are discussed separately.

Flexion

This movement occurs in the sagittal plane. It is usually in the anterior direction except for knee joint where flexion occurs in the posterior direction. It brings two parts of the body closer together.

Extension

This movement occurs in the sagittal plane. It is usually in the posterior direction except for knee joint where extension occurs in the anterior direction. It usually involves straightening of a joint.

Flexion and Extension of the Shoulder and Hip Joints

In flexion, the upper limb or lower limb moves anteriorly while in extension, the upper limb or lower limb moves posteriorly.

Flexion and Extension of the Elbow Joint

In flexion, the elbow joint bends and the angle between the anterior surface of the arm and the anterior surface of the forearm are decreased.
In extension, the elbow joint straightens and the angle between the anterior surface of the arm and the anterior surface of the forearm is increased.

Flexion and Extension of the Knee Joint

In flexion, the knee joint bends posteriorly while in extension it straightens to its original position. So, the flexion of the knee joint occurs in the posterior direction unlike flexion of the other joints. This is because of 180 degrees of rotation of the knee joint during development.

Flexion and Extension of the Wrist Joint

In flexion, the angle between the palmar surface of the hand and the anterior surface of the forearm is decreased.
In extension, the angle between the palmar surface of the hand and the anterior surface of the forearm is increased.

Dorsiflexion

This movement takes place at the ankle joint in which the foot and toes are lifted above the ground.

Plantarflexion

This movement takes place at the ankle joint in which the foot and toes are bent towards the ground.

Flexion and Extension of the Neck and Trunk

In flexion of the neck or trunk, the head moves anteriorly while in the extension of the neck or trunk, the head moves posteriorly.

Lateral Flexion of the Trunk

In lateral flexion of the trunk, the trunk moves either towards right or left in the coronal plane.

Abduction

In abduction, the limb moves away from the midline of the body in the coronal plane.

Adduction

In adduction, the limb moves towards the body in the coronal plane.

Rotation

It is the movement of a part of the body around its long axis. If the anterior surface of the part of the body moves medially, it is called medial (or internal) rotation. While if the anterior surface of the part of the body moves laterally, it is called lateral (or external) rotation.

Pronation

It is the movement in which forearm rotates medially, hence the palmar surface of the hand faces posteriorly and its dorsal surface faces anteriorly.

Supination

It is the movement in which forearm rotates laterally, hence the palmar surface of the hand faces anteriorly and its dorsal surface faces posteriorly and the hand comes back to its anatomical position from the pronated position.

Circumduction

It is a circular movement as a result of which distal end of a part moves in a circle. It occurs when four movements occur in a sequence. That is flexion, abduction, extension, and adduction. The sequence may be opposite, however, the movement remains circular in both the cases.

Protrusion (or Protraction)

It is the anterior movement. For example, of the jaw, scapula, etc.

Retrusion (or Retraction)

It is the posterior movement. For example, of the jaw, scapula, etc.

Inversion

It is the movement of the foot so that the sole faces in a medial direction.

Eversion

It is the movement of the foot so that the sole faces in a lateral direction.

Elevation

In this movement, a part is raised or moved superiorly. For example, shoulders.

Depression

In this movement, a part is lowered or moved inferiorly. For example, shoulders.

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