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Joints of the Human Body: What They Are and How They Work

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen•edited by: Diana Cooper•updated: 3/18/2011

What are the joints of the human body? Here we will discuss what they are and their function.

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    A joint is a point in the body where two bones meet. They make movement possible by making the skeleton flexible. We could not move without joints. The joints of the human body are located in various parts of the body and there are different kinds of joints. Understanding more about joints allows us to fully appreciate the musculoskeletal system and the body as a whole.

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    Types of Joints

    There are several different types of joints in the human body. The vertebrae and ribs are known as semi-mobile joints. They have restricted flexibility.

    The skull actually has what are considered joints. However, these are immovable.

    Cartilaginous joints are found in every spinal column bone. Because of the elasticity of cartilage, there is some flexibility.

    The elbow and the knee are known as hinge joints. They connect bones and are only flexible in a single direction.

    The shoulder and hip are known as ball and socket joints. They have a great range of flexibility and are able to rotate.

    There are joints of the human body known as pivot joints. Such joints allow the head to move side to side.

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    Synovial Joints

    Synovial joints, also sometimes referred to as freely movable joints, are capable of moving in a variety of directions. Many joints in the body fall under this category, such as the shoulder joints, knee joints, ankle joints, hip joints, elbow joints and wrist joints. Synovial fluid fills these joints and this lubricating fluid makes it so these joints can easily move.

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    Joint Disorders

    In the human body, there are more than 230 semi-movable and movable joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder. It is characterized by affected joints being difficult to move, swollen and warm. Any joint can be affected by this disorder.

    Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is another joint condition that is relatively common. It affects the jaw and can be caused by a number of factors, such as habitual fingernail biting or gum chewing, trauma to the jaw, certain occupational tasks, teeth grinding, certain dental problems and stress.

    A joint dislocation is characterized by two bones separating where they meet at the joint. A dislocation may also cause damage to nerves, ligaments and blood vessels because of no longer being in the normal position. A dislocation is a medical emergency. Trauma is the typical cause of a dislocation, such as a fall, blow or other form of trauma. A sudden impact to a joint can cause this injury.

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    References

    Dery, B. (2009). Types of Joints Found in the Human Body. Retrieved on March 16, 2011 from The Visual Dictionary: http://www.infovisual.info/03/026_en.html

    KidsHealth from Nemours. (2011). Bones, Muscles, and Joints: The Musculoskeletal System. Retrieved on March 16, 2011 from KidsHealth from Nemours: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/body_basics/bones_muscles_joints.html