In this anatomy lesson, I’m going to demonstrate circumduction, which is an angular movement that blends the motions of flexion, abduction, extension, and adduction to create a circular or conical motion of the attached structure.
The word circumduction starts with the same letters as the word “circle,” so that will tip you off that this movement creates a circular, or conical, movement in the structure extending beyond the joint.
Because circumduction is a combined movement, I find it helpful to think about the individual movements in slow motion. Looking at the shoulder joint, I’ll begin with arm flexion and then arm abduction. Next is arm extension, followed by arm adduction. When you combine those movements into one smooth motion, you can see how it forms a cone or circle.
The mnemonic “FABEA” might help you remember the order:
You could also reverse that order, but the movements have to alternate in a similar succession to create the circular motion that characterizes the circumduction movement.
Joints Capable of Circumduction
Where can circumduction occur on the body? Because it requires the motions of flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction, the joint will generally have to be capable of all four of those sequential movements. Below are examples of joints/structures that can perform the circumduction movement.
Circumduction of the Hip Joint (Thigh)
Circumduction of the Shoulder Joint (Arm)
Circumduction of the Wrist Joint (Hand)
Circumduction of the Thumb (Pollex)
Circumduction of the Fingers
Circumduction of the Toes
Circumduction of the Ankle Joint (Foot)
Circumduction of the Head
Circumduction in Healthcare
Like all body movement terms in anatomy, healthcare professionals use circumduction during documentation and assessments of joint mobility. Circumduction exercises may be prescribed after injury. For example, ankle circumduction exercises may be recommended after an ankle sprain.
Free Quiz and More Anatomy Videos
Take a free circumduction quiz to test your knowledge, or review our quick circumduction video. In addition, you might want to watch our anatomy and physiology lectures on YouTube, or check our anatomy and physiology notes.