Supination Vs. Pronation: What’s The Difference

You may have heard the terms, pronation, and supination, either in your healthcare education classes, or from your trainer at the gym.

Pronation and supination are medical terms used to describe the up or down orientation of your arm, foot, or hand. 

Pronation and supination are both also used to describe your arms and their positioning and how your weight is distributed when you walk or run.

Supination means that your weight is distributed more on the outside of your foot

Pronation means that when you walk your weight is distributed more on the inside of your foot.

Supination Vs Pronation: The Foot

Some people may find that they pronate or supinate with more emphasis to one direction creating a painful gait when walking or running. Excess pronation is described as the foot’s tendency to roll inward as it makes contact with the ground, also referred to as overpronation. Excess supination refers to an outward rolling of the foot. This can cause stress on your ankles, pain in your heels, and in the balls of your feet. Those with excess supination will have more wear on the outside of their shoes.

Ankle injuries such as sprains are a common athletic injury. The most common ankle injury is an inversion sprain where your ankle joint goes into too much supination (or inversion) and causes injury to your ATFL (anterior talofibular ligament). Two million lateral ankle sprains occur annually in the United States affecting the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), the calcaneofibular ligament (CFL) and/or the posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL) [R].

“A common injury associated with excess supination, would be rolling your ankles. That is why individuals need to work on reactive balance,”says Katie Gardner, DPT. 

Reactive balance improves the control of certain reactions that are involved when someone loses their balance, and they want to prevent themselves from falling. Incorporating functional strength training movements, such as compound movements, can help several physical aspects of strength and balance, to prevent acute or chronic injury.

Supination Vs Pronation: The Arms

Pronation and supination of the arms, refers to rotation and positioning of your forearms, either with our palms rotated up, (supination), or your palms facing down (pronation).

Your forearms refer to the lower half or distal half of your arms. The forearms consist of two long bones: the ulna and radius. The radius is on the lateral side of the forearm, and the ulna is on the medial side in the anatomical position.

You have several ligaments between bones, which makes it less susceptible to injury.

The wrists, an extension of the forearm, can supinate and pronate on its own. Supination and pronation occur in the arm, not in or from wrist movement.

“Nearly 25% of all sports related injuries have something do with the wrist. For the wrist a scaphoid fracture is most common – especially in female athletes but that is due to hyperextension rather than supination/pronation,” says Katie Gardner, DPT.

Wrist movements, include flexion and extension as opposed to supination and pronation.

Supination Vs Pronation: Takeaway

Supination and pronation are simply the anatomical terms used to describe the up and down orientation of your hands, feet, and arms. If your feet are pronated or supinated in excess it can cause issues with balance, posture, and possible muscle aesthetic making you more susceptible to injury.  

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