Joints are locations at which bones of the skeleton connect with one another. A joint is also called an articulation. The majority of joints are structured in such a way that they allow movement. However, not all joints allow movement. Of joints that do allow movement, the extent, and direction of the movements they allow also vary.

Below Pritish Kumar Halder takes a brief look at joints and their different types of classifications. 

Classification of Joints

Joints can be classified as structurally or functionally. The structural classification of joints depends on the manner in which the bones connect to each other. The functional classification of joints depends on the nature of the movement the joints allow. There is significant overlap between the two types of classifications because function depends largely on the structure.

Structural Classification of Joints

The structural classification of joints is based on the type of tissue that binds the bones to each other at the joint. There are three types of joints in the structural classification: fibrous, cartilaginous, and synovial joints.

Fibrous joints are joints in which bones are joined by dense connective tissue that is rich in collagen fibers. These joints are also called sutures. The joints between bones of the cranium are fibrous joints.

Cartilaginous joints are joints in which bones are joined by cartilage. The joints between most of the vertebrae in the spine are cartilaginous joints.

Synovial joints are characterized by a fluid-filled space, called a synovial cavity, between the bones of the joints. You can see a drawing of a typical synovial joint. The cavity is enclosed by a membrane and filled with a fluid, called the synovial fluid, which provides extra cushioning to the ends of the bones. Cartilage covers the articulating surfaces of the two bones, but the bones are actually held together by ligaments. The knee is a synovial joint.

Functional Classification of Joints

The functional classification of joints is based on the type and degree of movement that they allow. There are three types of joints in the functional classification: immovable, partly movable, and movable joints.

Immovable joints allow little or no movement at the joint. Most immovable joints are fibrous joints. Besides the bones of the cranium, immovable joints include joints between the tibia and fibula in the lower leg and between the radius and ulna in the lower arm.

Partly movable joints permit slight movement. Most partly movable joints are cartilaginous joints. Besides the joints between vertebrae, they include the joints between the ribs and sternum (breast bone).

Movable joints allow bones to move freely. All movable joints are synovial joints. Besides the knee, they include the shoulder, hip, and elbow. Movable joints are the most common type of joints in the body.

Types of Movable Joints

Movable joints can be classified further according to the type of movement they allow. There are six classes of movable joints: pivot, hinge, saddle, plane, condyloid, and ball-and-socket joints. An example of each class, as well as the type of movement it allows.

Types of movable joints

Pivot joint

A pivot joint allows one bone to rotate around another. An example of a pivot joint is the joint between the first two vertebrae in the spine. This joint allows the head to rotate from left to right and back again.

Hinge joint

A hinge joint allows back and forth movement like the hinge of a door. An example of a hinge joint is the elbow. This joint allows the arm to bend back and forth.

Saddle joint

A saddle joint allows two different types of movement. An example of a saddle joint is the joint between the first metacarpal bone in the hand and one of the carpal bones in the wrist. This joint allows the thumb to move toward and away from the index finger and also to cross over the palm toward the little finger.

Plane joint

A plane joint also called a gliding joint, allows two bones that glide over one another. The joints between the tarsals in the ankles and between the carpals in the wrists are mainly gliding joints. In the wrist, this type of joint allows the hand to bend upward at the wrist and also to wave from side to side while the lower arm is held steady.

Condyloid joint

A condyloid joint is one in which an oval-shaped head on one bone moves in an elliptical cavity in another bone, allowing movement in all directions except rotation around an axis. The joint between the radius in the lower arm and carpal bones of the wrist is a condyloid joint as is the joint at the base of the index finger.

Ball-and-socket joint

A ball-and-socket joint allows the greatest range of movement of any movable joint. It allows forward and backward as well as upward and downward motions. It also allows rotation in a circle. The hip and shoulder are the only two ball-and-socket joints in the human body.