Terms of Movement


The actions of muscles on the skeleton are described using anatomical terms of
movement. Muscles contract to cause joint movement, and the movements that follow
can be precisely described using this terminology. Medical terminology is used to precisely
describe the human body components, processes, illnesses, medical procedures, and

Terms of movement assume that the body is in its anatomical position when they are
used. An antagonistic movement is a movement that is the polar opposite of a movement.
To make things easier to comprehend, we’ve put the terms in pairs.

Flexion and Extension

What is flexion and extension?

In the sagittal plane, flexion and extension are movements. They refer to the angle between
two body parts being increased or decreased

Flexion is a movement in which the angle between two body components is reduced. The
angle between the ulna and the humerus is reduced when the elbow is flexed. The ankle
travels closer to the buttock when the knee bends, and the angle between the femur and
tibia narrows.

The term “extension” refers to a movement in which the angle between two body
components is increased. The angle between the ulna and the humerus is increased as the
elbow is extended. The lower limb is straightened by extending the knee.

What is the difference between the flexion and extension?

Flexion (bending of the joint) lowers the angle between the bones in the limbs, whereas
extension (straightening the joint) increases the angle. Moreover, the motion that enables you
to depress the car’s gas pedal is known as plantar flexion. Ballet dancers can also stand on
their toes thanks to it. The downward, away-from-the-body movement of the foot is referred
to as plantar flexion.

Abduction and Adduction

What is abduction and adduction?

The phrases abduction and adduction are used to describe motions that bring the body
closer to or further away from its midline.

Abduction, like abducting someone, is a movement away from the midline. Abduction of the
shoulder, for example, raises the arms out to the sides of the body.

Adduction is a movement in the direction of the midline. The legs are squeezed together
when the hip is adducted.

The midline used in fingers and toes is not the midline of the body, but the midline of the
hand and foot, respectively. Abducting the fingers spreads them out as a result.

Medial and Lateral Rotation

What is medial and lateral rotation?

Movement of the limbs around their long axis is described by medial and lateral rotation:
A rotational movement towards the midline is known as medial rotation. Internal rotation is a
term used to describe this phenomenon. To grasp this, consider the following two scenarios.
To begin, rotate a straight leg to point the toes inward. This is known as hip medial rotation.
Second, imagine you’re holding a tea tray in front of you and your elbow is at a 90-degree
angle. Rotate your arm and put your hand to your opposite hip (elbow still at 90 degrees).
Internal rotation of the shoulder is what this is called.

A rotation away from the midline is known as lateral rotation. This is the polar opposite of
the previously described movements. Exercises that effectively strengthen your shoulders and
a portion of your upper back muscles include lateral rises and side lateral raises. The deltoid
muscles and certain trapezius fibers are also worked out during lateral raises.

Elevation and Depression

Movement in a superior direction (e.g. shoulder shrug) is called elevation, while
movement in an inferior direction is called depression.

Pronation and Supination

It’s easy to mix this up with medial and lateral rotation, but the differences are minor. Turn
your hand onto its back, palm up, with your hand resting on a table in front of you and your
shoulder and elbow still. Supination is the movement associated with the supine position.
Flip your hand onto its front, palm down, while keeping the elbow and shoulder still. This is
the prone position, hence pronation is the name for this movement.

These terms also refer to the entire body, which is supine when lying flat on one’s back. The
body is prone when lying flat on its front.

Dorsiflexion and Plantarflexion

The terms dorsiflexion and plantarflexion are used to describe ankle movements. The dorsum
(superior surface) and the plantar surface are the two surfaces of the foot (the sole).
Dorsiflexion is ankle flexion that causes the foot to point more superiorly. Dorsiflexion of the
hand is a term that is rarely used because it is confusing. The rear surface of the hand is the
dorsum, hence movement in that direction is extension. As a result, we can say that wrist
dorsiflexion is the same as wrist extension.

Plantarflexion is ankle extension that causes the foot to point inferiorly. Palmarflexion is a
term that describes how the hand bends.

Inversion and Eversion

Inversion and eversion are ankle joint motions that describe the rotation of the foot
along its long axis.

Inversion is defined as the shift of the sole towards the median plane, causing the sole to
face medially.

Eversion is defined as the shift of the sole away from the median plane and toward the
lateral direction.

Opposition and Reposition

These words refer to the extra motions that humans and certain great apes can execute with
their hands and thumbs. The thumb and little finger are brought together by opposition.
The thumb and little finger are moved apart from each other during repositioning, essentially
reversing opposition.


What is circumduction?

Circumduction is described as a conical movement of a limb that extends from the joint that
controls the movement.

It’s frequently called a circular motion, although it’s more appropriately described as a
conical motion because of the ‘cone’ produced by the moving limb.

Protraction and Retraction

The anterolateral movement of the scapula on the thoracic wall that permits the shoulder
to move anteriorly is referred to as protraction. This is the act of’reaching out’ to
something in practice.

The scapula’s posteromedial movement on the thoracic wall leads the shoulder area to
shift posteriorly, allowing you to pick things up.

what plane is protraction and retraction in?

Protraction and retraction occur in two major regions of the body – the scapula and
the mandible