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Diagram of a typical synovial (diarthrosis) joint.
Depiction of an intervertebral disk, a cartilaginous joint.
SystemMusculoskeletal system
Articular system
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Diagram of a typical synovial (diarthrosis) joint.
Depiction of an intervertebral disk, a cartilaginous joint.
SystemMusculoskeletal system
Articular system

A joint, articulation (or articulate surface) is the location at which bones connect.[1][2] They are constructed to allow movement (except for skull bones) and provide mechanical support, and are classified structurally and functionally.[3][page needed]


Joints are mainly classified structurally and functionally. Structural classification is determined by how the bones connect to each other, while functional classification is determined by the degree of movement between the articulating bones. In practice, there is significant overlap between the two types of classifications.

Terms ending in the suffix -sis are singular and refer to just one joint, while -ses is the suffix for pluralization.

An articulate facet is generally seen as a small joint, especially used when speaking of the joints of the ribs.[4][5]

Structural classification (binding tissue)[edit]

Structural classification names and divides joints according to the type of binding tissue that connects the bones to each other.[6] There are three structural classifications of joints:[7]

Functional classification (movement)[edit]

Joints can also be classified functionally according to the type and degree of movement they allow:[6][9]

Joints can also be classified according to the number of axes of movement they allow, into monoaxial, biaxial and multiaxial.[14] Another classification is according to the degrees of freedom allowed, and distinguished between joints with one, two or three degrees of freedom.[14] A further classification is according to the number and shapes of the articular surfaces: flat, concave and convex surfaces.[14] Types of articular surfaces include trochlear surfaces.[15]

Biomechanical classification[edit]

Joints can also be classified based on their anatomy or on their biomechanical properties. According to the anatomic classification, joints are subdivided into simple and compound, depending on the number of bones involved, and into complex and combination joints:[16]

  1. Simple Joint: 2 articulation surfaces (e.g. shoulder joint, hip joint)
  2. Compound Joint: 3 or more articulation surfaces (e.g. radiocarpal joint)
  3. Complex Joint: 2 or more articulation surfaces and an articular disc or meniscus (e.g. knee joint)


The joints may be classified anatomically into the following groups:

  1. Articulations of hand
  2. Elbow joints
  3. Wrist joints
  4. Axillary articulations
  5. Sternoclavicular joints
  6. Vertebral articulations
  7. Temporomandibular joints
  8. Sacroiliac joints
  9. Hip joints
  10. Knee joints
  11. Articulations of foot

Joint disorders[edit]

A joint disorder is termed an arthropathy, and when involving inflammation of one or more joints the disorder is called an arthritis. Most joint disorders involve arthritis, but joint damage by external physical trauma is typically not termed arthritis.

Arthropathies are called polyarticular when involving many joints and monoarticular when involving only one single joint.

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in people over the age of 55. There are many different forms of arthritis, each of which has a different cause. The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease) occurs following trauma to the joint, following an infection of the joint or simply as a result of aging. Furthermore, there is emerging evidence that abnormal anatomy may contribute to early development of osteoarthritis. Other forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, which are autoimmune diseases in which the body is attacking itself. Septic arthritis is caused by joint infection. Gouty arthritis is caused by deposition of uric acid crystals in the joint that results in subsequent inflammation. Additionally, there is a less common form of gout that is caused by the formation of rhomboidal shaped crystals of calcium pyrophosphate. This form of gout is known as pseudogout.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Joint definition". eMedicine Dictionary. 27 April 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
  2. ^ "Articulation definition". eMedicine Dictionary. 30 October 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Ellis, Harold; Susan Standring; Gray, Henry David (2005). Gray's anatomy: the anatomical basis of clinical practice. St. Louis, Mo: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone. p. 38. ISBN 0-443-07168-3. 
  4. ^ "Medilexicon - Medical Dictionary - Articular Facet". Retrieved December 19, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Foundational Model of Anatomy". Retrieved December 19, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Whiting, William Charles and RuggDynatomy, Stuart (2006) Dynamic Human Anatomy, Volume 10 p.40
  7. ^ "Introduction to Joints (3) - Joints - Classification by Tissue Joining Bones". Archived from the original on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  8. ^ a b Principles of Anatomy & Physiology, 12th Edition, Tortora & Derrickson, Pub: Wiley & Sons
  9. ^ a b "Introduction to Joints (2) - Joints - Classification by Movement". Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  10. ^ "synovial joint" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  11. ^ Samuel George Morton (1849) An Illustrated System of Human Anatomy p.119
  12. ^ Henry Gray (1859) Anatomy, descriptive and surgical p.136
  13. ^ Henry Gray (1887) Anatomy, descriptive and surgical p.220
  14. ^ a b c Platzer, Werner (2008) Color Atlas of Human Anatomy, Volume 1, p.28
  15. ^ Armen S Kelikian, Shahan Sarrafian Sarrafian's Anatomy of the Foot and Ankle: Descriptive, Topographic, Functional p.94
  16. ^ "Introductory Anatomy: Joints". Retrieved 2008-01-29. 

External links[edit]