pe body in motion

Topics: Anatomy, Joints, Sagittal plane Pages: 7 (1188 words) Published: October 11, 2014




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Home > Anatomy & Physiology > Planes of Motion and Terms of Movement 

Planes of Motion and Terms of Movement

There are three planes of motion in which we move. If you think about it, most of our movements are not straight up and down, or side to side etc, especially in sports. They tend to combine a mixture of movements in different planes.

The three planes of motion are:

Sagittal Plane

The Sagittal plane passes through the body front to back, so dividing it into left and right. Movements in this plane are the up and down movements of flexion and extension

Frontal Plane

The frontal plane divides the body into front and back. Movements in this plane are sideways movements, called abduction and adduction

Transverse Plane

This plane divides the body into top and bottom. Movements in this plane are rotational in nature, such as internal and external rotation, pronation and supination

Anatomical Neutral

This is the starting position for describing any movement. It is important that you know this to be able to understand what is meant by certain movement patterns. It is sometimes also called the anatomical starting position or fundamental starting position.

Anatomical neutral is:

Standing uprightLegs together and knee straightToes pointing straight forwardsArms by the sidePalms facing forwards


Flexion and Extension

Flexion is a movement in the sagittal plane, which decreases the angle at the moving joint. Extension is the opposite movement, which increases the angle at the joint. Many types of synovial joint are capable of flexion and extension (hinge; ball and socket; saddle; condyloid) including the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip and knee. Here are some examples:

Play shoulder video

Play knee video

In the videos above, shoulder flexion is the action of raising the arm above the head. Extension is then the downward movement. In the photo, the shoulder is in an extended position. For the knee, bending the knee is flexion, as the angle is reduced (as shown in the picture) and straightening it is called extension.

Flexion and extension at the ankle joint is called dorsiflexion and plantarflexion. Dorsiflexion is when you point your toes towards the ceiling and plantarflexion is when you point your toes away, towards the floor. Remember to start in the anatomical starting position!

Abduction and Adduction

These are movements in the frontal plane and involve moving the body part away or towards an imaginary centre line. Abduction is taking the body part away from the central line and adduction is moving it towards (remember this by thinking adduction adds the body part to the centre). Adduction can also be moving the body part across the centre line and to the other side of the body, shown in the hip abduction video below. Amongst the joints capable of abduction and adduction are the shoulder and hip.

Play shoulder video

Play hip video 

Other abduction and adduction movements include the fingers. If you splay your fingers and move them apart, this is abduction as they are moving away from the centre position. When you bring the fingers back together, this is adduction, as you are adding them back to the centre line.


Rotation movements are in the transverse plane and include any twisting motion. Joints which permit rotation include the shoulder and hip. These are both ball and socket joints. We can also rotate our necks and backs due to a series of...
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