Joint Movements

This page lists with short definitions the types of movements at synovial joints.

Joint movements of this type are also known as anatomical movements. For more detailed information about a specific movement click the the name of the joint movement in the tables below (pink links in bold).

Angular Movements

Angular movements involve either an increase or a decrease in the angle between the articulating bones.

Movement
Short Definition

1.

Flexion

A movement decreasing the angle between articulating bones.
(Some texts express this as "decreasing the inner angle of the joint".)

2.

Extension

A movement increasing the angle between articulating bones.
Another way to express this is "increasing the inner angle of the joint".

3.

Hyperextension

A movement to increase the angle between articulating bones to take a body-part or limb beyond its normal range.

4.

Abduction

A movement away from the mid-line of the body.

5.

Adduction

A movement towards the mid-line of the body - also applies to movements inwards and across the body.

6.

Circumduction

A conical movement of a limb extending from the joint (e.g. shoulder or hip) at which the movement is controlled. True circumduction allows for 360o of movement.

Rotation

Movement
Short Definition

7.

Rotation

A movement in which something, e.g. a bone or a whole limb, pivots or revolves around a single long axis.

Special Movements

Special movements only occur at certain joints - rather than at certain types of joints.

Movement
Short Definition

8.

Elevation

The upward movement of structures of the body. For example, elevation of a shoulder joint raises the corresponding arm vertically upwards (as opposed to outwards to the side or in any other direction).

9.

Depression

The downward movement of structures of the body, e.g. depression of a shoulder joint lowers the corresponding arm vertically downwards.

10.

Protraction

The movement of a body part in the anterior direction, i.e. forwards.

11.

Retraction

The movement of a body part in the posterior direction, i.e. backwards.
(Also movement of a protracted body part back to the anatomical position.)

12.

Eversion

A movement in which the plantar surface of the foot rotates away from the mid-line of the body. Another way to describe this movement is to say that the plantar surface (sole) of the foot turns laterally, i.e. turns outwards.

13.

Inversion

A movement in which the plantar surface (sole) of the foot rotates towards the mid-line of the body. Another way to describe this movement is to say that the plantar surface (sole) of the foot turns medially, i.e. turns inwards.

14.

Dorsiflexion

Backward flexion (bending), as of the hand or foot.
This can also be described as bending in the direction of the dorsum (dorsum = upper surface = "superior" surface, i.e. the surface of the foot or hand that includes the toe nails or finger nails).

15.

Plantarflexion

Forwards flexion or bending, as of the hand or foot.
For example, flexion of the foot/ankle means rotating the toes downwards (away from the leg to which the ankle and foot is attached).

16.

Pronation

A movement that can be performed by the lower-arm/wrist and also by the ankle/foot. The action of pronation can be described for each:

  • pronation of the forearm is rotation of the forearm turning the palm of the hand inwards towards the body , i.e. turning the palm inferiorly or posteriorly (the opposite of supination of the forearm).
  • pronation of the foot is one of the normal movements made by the foot to absorb its impact onto the ground when walking or running.

17.

Supination

A movement that can occur (in different ways) at the lower-arm and wrist and also the foot/ankle. Supination can be described for each case:

  • supination of the forearm = rotation of the forearm turning the palm of the hand outwards so that it faces away from the body, i.e. turning the palm superiorly (= upwards) or anteriorly (= forwards).
  • supination of the foot is an excessive outward rolling motion of the foot and ankle when walking or running.

This is the end of this page about the joint movements. See also types of joints.







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This is not medical, First Aid or other advice and is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment. Consult an expert in person. Care has been taken when compiling this page but accuracy cannot be guaranteed. This material is copyright.

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