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Types of body movements

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Name the terms used to describe the main types of movements.
  2. Describe the movements performed by the major joints of the human body.

Watch video

Our musculoskeletal system functions to propel our bodies within space and allows us to interact with the world around us. These movements occur at our synovial joints, as a result of muscles acting on our skeleton. Specific terms are given to each movement to help clearly communicate the way in which a joint is moving.

Watch the following video to learn about the various types of movements occurring in the human body.

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Now that you have watched the video on body movement check your knowledge by taking the following quiz.

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Browse atlas


Key points about types of body movements
Terminology of movements
Flexion / extension
Lateral (external) rotation / internal (medial) rotation
Abduction / adduction
Pronation / supination
Elevation / depression
Protraction / retraction
Plantarflexion / dorsiflexion
Eversion / inversion
Opposition / reposition
Lateral flexion
Movement at the major joints Shoulder: Flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, internal rotation, external rotation, circumduction
 Flexion, extension
Proximal radioulnar joint:
 Pronation, supination
 Flexion, extension, adduction, abduction
 Flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, internal rotation, external rotation, circumduction
 Flexion, extension (small degree of internal / external rotation when knee is flexed)
 Dorsiflexion, plantarflexion
Subtalar joint:
 Inversion, eversion
 Flexion, extension, rotation, lateral flexion, rotation (greatest at the atlantoaxial joint)
: Elevation, depression, protraction, retraction
Scapula: Protraction, retraction, elevation, depression, upward rotation, downward rotation

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