In this anatomy lesson, I’m going to demonstrate supination and pronation, which are special movements involving rotation of the forearm. These body movements are used by healthcare professionals to describe body movements, document, and assess patients.
Supination of Forearm and Hand
During supination, the distal end of the radius bone rotates over the ulna bone in a lateral direction. Lateral rotation means it is rotating away from the body’s midline.
I like to watch the thumb during this movement, because it is on the same side as the radius (hence, the radial pulse is located below the thumb). When the thumb is rotating away from the body’s midline, supination is occurring.
Pronation of Forearm and Hand
In contrast, pronation is the opposite movement: the distal end of the radius rotates over the ulna medially, and the two bones cross. Medial rotation is toward the body’s midline. So when the thumbs point toward the middle of the body, you know that pronation has occurred.
Palm Orientation During Supination and Pronation
You can also look at the orientation of the palms. During supination, the palms will face anteriorly (forward), which is their natural orientation in the anatomical position. However, if you flex the elbow about 90 degrees, the palms would then be facing up (superiorly).
Pronation has the palms facing the opposite direction: posteriorly (toward the back) when in the anatomical position, or down (inferiorly) when the elbow flexes to around 90 degrees. This is another reason why I like to look at the thumbs during this movement. Thumbs will point away from the body’s midline during supination, and toward the body during pronation, regardless of how the elbow is flexed.
Supination vs Pronation Mnemonic
Here’s a simple mnemonic (memory trick) to help you remember pronation vs supination special movements:
At the grocery store, you pronate to pick up your produce, and you supinate to eat it for supper.
Also, if you want to take your vitamins, you pronate to pour, and you supinate to take your supplements.
Free Quiz and More Anatomy Videos
Take a free supination vs pronation quiz to test your knowledge, or review our supination vs pronation video. In addition, you might want to watch our anatomy and physiology lectures on YouTube, or check our anatomy and physiology notes.