Learn the different types of joints to determine the right treatment or supplement.
In this article:
Types of Joints | Where Are They, and What Do They Do?
Why Is It Essential to Know the Types of Joints?
Joint discomfort and swelling is an ongoing issue for many people. Prescription medication and nutritional supplements can often provide relief and even promote healthier bones.
To understand what those aching or swollen joints need for better health, though, you need to know the category of the joint causing the problem.
Each of the three primary types of joints has a different function. Some of them are more susceptible to age and injury than others.
3 Types of Joints
There are three main joint types in the human body. Within each of the three main types are subcategories. It’s useful to know the primary characteristics of the main categories of joints.
The three types of joints can differ according to the types of movement they allow. These movements — or lack of them — range from completely fixed to freely movable.
1. Synovial Joints
Synovial joints are the most common joint in the human body. They are also the joints that allow the most freedom of movement. Some of the well-known synovial joints are the knee, elbow, shoulder, hip, and wrist joints.
The cavities of these kinds of joints contain synovial fluid. It helps prevent friction from cartilage rubbing together. Over the cavity is the articular capsule, which connects the bones.
The kneecap is an example of an articular capsule, covered with bone. The interplay of these joints depends on a complex set of materials, including collagen.
Within the main category of synovial joints, there are several subtypes. Among them are:
- Hinge Joint — Hinge joints operate much like a door hinge. They allow extending or flexing in one direction. Elbows, fingers, and toes are all examples of hinge joints.
- Compound Joint — The knee is a compound synovial joint, which is like a modified hinge joint. It can both flex and extend, as well as do some rotational movements.
- Pivot Joint — Pivot joints allow one bone to rotate around the other. The upper part of the neck and the forearm are two examples.
- Plane Joint — Plane joints allow for a gliding motion of the bones in the joint. Wrists and shoulders contain plane joints.
- Ball-and-Socket Joint — This type of joint appears wherever the protuberance, or “ball,” of one bone fits neatly into the depression, or “socket,” of the adjoining bone. This arrangement allows for a wide variety of movement. Hips and shoulders both have ball-and-socket joints.
- Saddle Joint — This type of synovial joint features two bone surfaces that are saddle-shaped. They fit neatly into each other. The thumb joint is a type of saddle joint.
2. Fibrous Joints
Fibrous joints are a fixed type of joint. It means they are immovable or mostly immovable. Fibrous joints don’t have joint cavities. There isn’t any particular kind of fluid within those cavities, unlike the synovial joints.
A connective tissue of tough collagen fibers holds them together. The main purpose of most fibrous joints is to protect what they surround. This is why they’re either immovable or move only slightly.
There are three main types of fibrous joints. These are suture, gomphosis, and syndesmosis. Like synovial joints, each subcategory has its unique function:
- Suture Joint — Sutures are joints that only exist in the skull. There are actually dozens of joints in the skull alone, each designed to articulate with the skull bones. Most sutures allow for slight movement, which is especially helpful for newborns coming through the birth canal. With age, these joints become more rigid.
- Syndesmosis Joint — The syndesmosis joints allow for slight movement. The lower leg and upper ankle areas are examples of syndesmosis joints. A connective tissue joins them together.
- Gomphosis Joint — The gomphosis joints are near the mouth. Specifically, they connect the teeth to the upper and lower jawbones. The jawbones have sockets within them, into which the pegs at the bottom of the teeth connect via gomphosis fibers. Children become familiar with these as the joints that begin to give teeth “wiggle room” as they loosen. For teens, the gomphosis joints are what allow teeth to move when they’re wearing braces or retainers.
3. Cartilaginous Joints
When it comes to the range of motion, cartilaginous joints fall somewhere between fixed fibrous joints and freely moving synovial joints. As its name suggests, cartilage binds them together. It is a tough, flexible connective tissue. In children, some of these cartilaginous joints form the basis of what will eventually harden into spinal discs and long bones.
Under this category, there are two types of joints:
- Synchondrosis Joint — This type of cartilaginous joint is immovable. It contains a definite type of cartilage that connects bones. An example is the sections within long bones that eventually harden as children grow. Others are the synchondrosis joints that connect the ribs.
- Symphysis Joint — The symphysis types of cartilaginous joints are slightly movable. They fuse two bones together and connect the sternum areas. You can also find symphysis cartilaginous joints in the pubic bone region and the discs between spinal vertebrae.
Joints Need Nourishment
In general, the more the joints depend on connective tissue for optimal movement, the more vulnerable they are to age, disease, or injury. Building up collagen stores is one way to keep various kinds of fibrous, cartilaginous, and synovial joints from degenerating.
Almost always, these types of joints can benefit from supplements that encourage collagen synthesis and repair of the connective tissue. As a person ages, their production of collagen can decrease. These products can help augment the supply.
Learn the types of joints and their functions by watching this video from Whats Up Dude:
Joint pain can vary from one person to another. A treatment that works for so many may not be the ideal one for you. To treat swelling and aching with more precision, first, you need to know your anatomy better. Second, ask a doctor for more information, especially when it comes to discomfort or degeneration. Only they can give you the right treatment or management plan.
What kinds of treatment did you receive for joint pain? Share your experiences below!