20 Different Types of Anatomical Body Movements |Examples |Illustrations

20 Different Types of Anatomical Body Movements with Examples & Illustrations

In this post, you will learn about 20 different types of anatomical body movement in humans.

Click here to learn the types of joints in the human body.

The anatomical movements that take place in the human body are also known as the angular movements of the joints.

Below is a list of 20 different types of human anatomical movements.

  1. Flexion
  2. Extension
  3. Abduction
  4. Adduction
  5. Rotation
  6. Circumduction
  7. Supination
  8. Pronation
  9. Inversion
  10. Eversion
  11. Dorsiflexion
  12. Plantar Flexion
  13. Lateral Flexion
  14. Hyperextension
  15. Depression
  16. Elevation
  17. Protraction
  18. Retraction
  19. Opposition
  20. Reposition
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20 different types of anatomical body movements

What is an anatomical body movement?

An anatomical movement involves two bones or body parts moving around fixed joints in relation to the main anatomical axes or planes parallel to them. Such as in the sagittal plane, coronal plane, frontal plane, superiorly, inferiorly, laterally, and so on.

Flexion

Flexion decreases the angle between the two bones or two body parts. It results in bending (flexing).

Flexion occurs in the sagittal plane.

Flexion movement is possible at the neck, arm at the shoulder, forearm at the elbow, hand at the wrist, digits, spine, thigh at the hip, and leg at the knee.

Example of flexion:

Following are two examples of flexion.

  • Flexing/bending of arms and fingers
  • Flexing/bending of elbow and knee

Extension

The extension increases the angle between the bones or two body parts. Straightening (stretching) a body part causes the extension to happen.

Extension and flexion are opposite movements.

Like flexion, the extension also occurs in the sagittal plane.

Extension movement is also possible at the neck, arm at the shoulder, forearm at the elbow, hand at the wrist, digits, spine, thigh at the hip, and leg at the knee.

Example of extension:

Following are two examples of extension.

  • Extending/stretching of arms and fingers
  • Extending/stretching of elbow and knee
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Flexion & Extension. Source*

Abduction

Abduction is the movement of a limb or digits laterally away from the midline of the body.

Abduction occurs in the frontal (coronal) plane.

Abduction movement is possible in the arm at the shoulder, digits (fingers), and thigh at the hip.

Example of abduction:

Extending the arm or leg laterally away from the body is an example of abduciton.

Adduction

Adduction is the movement of a limb or digits medially towards the midline of the body.

Abduction is the opposite of adduction movement.

Like abduction, adduction also occurs in the frontal (coronal) plane.

Adduction movement is also possible in the arm at the shoulder, digits (fingers), and thigh at the hip.

Example of adduction:

Bringing the extended arm back to the original position beside the body is an example of adduction.

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Abbduction, Adduction, & Circumduction. Source*

Circumduction

Circumduction is the circular movement of the joint. It allows the limb to move in a circle (360˚).

Circumduction movement occurs in ball and socket joints such as the hip and shoulders.

Example of circumduction:

The circular movement of the arm at the shoulder is an example of circumduction.

Rotation

Rotation refers to a 180 degree circular movement of joint around the central axis. It can either be:

  • Internal (medial) rotation: Rotation of bone towards the body’s midline.
  • External (lateral) rotation: Rotation of bone opposite the body’s midline.

The rotation occurs at the head, arm at the shoulder, and thigh at the hip.

Example of rotation:

Turning the head side to side as though to say “no” is an example of rotation.

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Rotation (Internal/Medial & External/Lateral). Source*

Supination

Supination movement is used to describe the upward orientation of your arm, foot, or palm.

Example of supination:

Supination is the movement of the forearms that causes the palms to face upwards.

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Supination & Pronation of the forearm. Source*

Pronation

Pronation movement is used to describe the downward orientation of your arm, foot, or palm.

The opposite of pronation is supination.

Example of pronation:

The act of turning the forearm to face the palm of the hand downward is pronation.

Note: The supination and pronation seem a little complicated when we talk about feet. When referring to the feet, these terms describe how your weight is distributed as you walk or run.

For supination, the weight tends to be more on the outside of your foot when walking.

For Pronation, the weight tends to be more on the inside of your foot.

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Supination & Pronation of the foot. Source*

Inversion

Inversion is the movement of the foot that turns the sole towards the midline.

Example of inversion

The movement of turning the sole medially inward.

Eversion

Eversion is the movement that turns the soles away from the midlines.

Eversion is the opposite movement of inversion.

Example of eversion

The movement of turning the sole laterally outward.

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Inversion & Eversion. Source*

Dorsiflexion

Dorsiflexion is movements of the toes or the foot upwards or towards the sky.

Example of dorsiflexion:

Walking on heels results in dorsiflexion at ankle joints.

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Dorsiflexion & Plantar Flexion of the foot. Source*

Plantar flexion

Plantar flexion is the movement of toes or feet downwards or towards the ground (plantar surface).

Dorsiflexion and plantar flexion are opposite movements.

Example of plantar flexion:

  • Pressing a car pedal results in plantar flexion at the ankle joint
  • Standing on tiptoes
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Supination vs Pronation; Inversion vs Eversion; Dorsiflexion vs Plantar Flexion. Source1,2,3

Lateral flexion

Lateral flexion is the bending of the spine (vertebral column) either to the left or right side.

Lateral flexion can occur in the trunk at the lumbar and thoracic spine. Also, in the neck at the cervical spine.

Example of lateral flexion

An example of lateral flexion would be bending the trunk of the body laterally to the left side.

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Lateral Flexion of the body

Hyperextension

Hyperextension is defined as the movement of a joint beyond its normal range of motion.

Hyperextension (overextension) can cause pain and injuries to the joint and surrounding structures.

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Hyperextension example. Source*

Protraction

Protraction is an anterior-forward movement of a body part.

Protraction can occur at the mandible and scapula.

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Protraction & Retraction of the mandible. Source*

Retraction

Retraction is a posterior-backward movement of a body part.

Retraction is the opposite of protraction and it also occurs in the scapula and mandible.

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Protraction & Retraction of the Scapula. Source*

Depression

Depression is an inferior-downward movement of a body part.

Depression can occur in the eyelids, mandible, and scapula.

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Elevation & Depression example. Source*

Elevation

Elevation is a superior-upward movement of a body part.

Elevation is the opposite movement of depression. It also happens in the eyelids, mandible, and scapula.

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Protraction & Retraction vs Elevation & Depression. Source1,2

Opposition

Opposition is the movement of the thumb touching the tip of another finger on the same hand.

Opposition occurs in the saddle joint of the thumb.

Reposition

Reposition is the movement of bringing the thumb back to its natural position (i.e., reversal of the opposition movement).

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Opposition & Reposition of thumb. Source*

What are the different types of movements in synovial joints?

There are six main types of synovial joints that allow different types of movements in the human body.

The gliding or plane joint, hinge joint, pivot joint, condyloid joint, ball and socket joint, and saddle joint are the six synovial joints.

Examples of the types of movements that can occur at each of these joints are provided in the table below.

Type of synovial jointsType of MovementsExamples
1. Gliding joint (Plane joint)Flexion, extension, inversion, eversion, & lateral flexion of the vertebral columnMovements in facet joints
2. Hinge jointFlexion & extensionMovements in knee and elbow joints and joints between the phalanges
3. Pivot joint Rotation onlyMovements in the joint between the 1st and 2nd cervical vertebrae (atlas and axis) and joint at the proximal ends of the radius and the ulna
4. Condyloid jointFlexion, extension, adduction, abduction, & circumductionMovement of the wrist joint, metacarpophalangeal joints, the joint between the occipital bone of the skull and the first cervical vertebra (atlas)
5. Ball and socket jointFlexion, extension, adduction, abduction, rotation, & circumductionMovements in hip and shoulder joints
6. Saddle jointFlexion, extension, adduction, abduction, rotation, opposition, & repositionThumb joint
Types of movements in synovial joints
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Conclusion

In conclusion, the different types of anatomical movements of the human body include flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, rotation, circumduction, supination, pronation, inversion, eversion, dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, depression, elevation, retraction, protraction, opposition, reposition, lateral flexion, and hyperextension.

Reference

Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. (2009). Anatomy and physiology made incredibly easy! (3rd ed.).

Cohen, B., & Taylor, J. (2009). Memmler’s Structure and Function of the Human Body, 8th ed (10th ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Moini, J. (2020). Anatomy and Physiology for Health Professionals (3rd ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC.

Moore, K., Dalley, A., & Agur, A. (2018). Clinically Oriented Anatomy (8th ed.). 8 Wolters Kluwer.

Standring, S., Anand, N., Birch, R., Collins, P., Crossman, A., & Gleeson, M. et al. (2016). Gray’s Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice (41st ed.). Elsevier Limited.

Thompson, G. (2015). Understanding Anatomy & Physiology: A visual, auditory, interactive approach (2nd ed.). F. A. Davis Company.

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