Movements of the arm

Dr Henry Knipe et al.

The glenohumeral joint is highly mobile resulting in a wide range of movements of the arm

Arm flexion

Arm flexion represents rotation in the anatomic plane such that the distal humerus moves ventrally. Is represents raising the arm and isolated flexion can achieve approximately 150-170 degrees of movement.

Arm extension

Arm extension represents the opposite movement to arm flexion and can only achieve about 40 degrees of movement in most individuals.

Arm abduction

Arm abduction represents movement of the arm away from the midline of the body and, in most cases isolate abduction can be achieved to 160-180 degrees.

Arm adduction

Arm adduction represents movement of the arm towards the midline and most individuals can manage 40 degrees of isolated adduction.

Arm internal rotation

Internal (medial) rotation represents the movement of the humerus when an arm flexed to 90 degrees at the elbow is rotated around the longitudinal plane of the humerus such that the hand moves towards the midline of the body.  The degree of rotation is dependant on the degree of abduction at the shoulder. In adduction internal rotation can be up to 70 degrees. As the arm is abducted this increases towards 95 degrees.

Arm external rotation

External (lateral) rotation describes external rotation of the humeral around its longitudinal axis. As with medial (internal) rotation, the degree of rotation is dependant on the degree of abduction. When the arm is adducted, medial rotation of 40-55 degrees is possible. However, as the arm is abducted, this increases towards 70 degrees.


Upper limb anatomy
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Article Information

rID: 29730
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Arm movements

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