Anatomical Terms for Movements

Flexion refers to a movement that decreases the angle between two body parts.

Extension refers to a movement that increases the angle between two body parts.

Abduction is a movement away from the midline – just as abducting someone is to take them away.

Adduction is a movement towards the midline.

Medial rotation is a rotational movement towards the midline. It is sometimes referred to as internal rotation.

Lateral rotation is a rotating movement away from the midline.

Elevation refers to movement in a superior direction (e.g. shoulder shrug), depression refers to movement in an inferior direction.

Pronation at the forearm is a rotational movement where the hand and upper arm are turned inwards. Pronation of the foot refers to turning of the sole outwards so that weight is borne on the medial part of the foot.

Supination of the forearm occurs when the forearm or palm are rotated outwards. Supination of the foot refers to turning of the sole of the foot inwards, shifting weight to the lateral edge.

Inversion and eversion refer to movements that tilt the sole of the foot away from (eversion) or towards (inversion) the midline of the body.

Dorsiflexion refers to flexion at the ankle so that the foot points more superiorly. Dorsiflexion of the hand is a confusing term, and so is rarely used. The dorsum of the hand is the posterior surface, and so movement in that direction is the extension. Therefore we can say that dorsiflexion of the wrist is the same as the extension.

Plantar Flexion refers extension at the ankle so that the foot points inferiorly. Similarly, there is a term for the hand, which is palmar flexion.

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