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Anatomy Lesson: Types of Joints

By Dr. Molly Casey

Joint Pain and Chiropractic

A joint is where bones meet. Joints allow movement and provide stability. Normal joint function provides full range of motion with the ability to bear weight and perform work. Ankles, knees, hips, elbows, shoulders and vertebrae all examples of joints.

Muscles typically cross the joint. For example, at the knee, muscles from the top of the thigh (femur) to the top of the shin bone (tibia) contract to create movement for the knee.

Joints are incredibly important pieces of our anatomy. There are six different types of joints and they all have different functions. This small educational piece will drive home the complexity of joints and their function. They need to be moved and they need to be cared for, so let’s also look at the role chiropractic plays in joint life.


Hinge joints facilitate flexion and extension in limbs along one axis or in one plane. Elbows, fingers and toes are all hinge joints. One end of a bone is convex (rounded) and the end of another bone is concave (has a divot and opposite match to the convex of the other bone). This perfect fit, for example, allows for an arm with forearm touching the bicep to be extended outward to the reaching position. Another example is doing the “come here” motion with your index finger. This video will explain with a visual.

Ball and Socket

A ball and socket joint is exactly as it sounds: the end of one bone is round like a ball and the end of the other is depressed or concave. The sockets holds the ball. This joint is the most mobile and allows bending (flexion/extension) movements, circular movements and rotational movements. The hip and shoulder joints are ball and socket joints. This a highly stable and strong joint.


Gliding joints allow bones to move in several directions along one plane or smooth surface. The small bones (carpal bones) of the wrist do exactly that. It’s two like surfaces sliding smoothly against each other. Check out this video.


Condyloid joints are also called ellipsoidal joints. They allow motions in two planes consisting of bending (flexion/extension) and limited rotational movement. The joint in the wrist where the end of the forearm bone meets the small wrist bones is one such joint; it is called the radio-carpal joint. This is a very brief video that shows both the flexion and extension plus rotational movement.


A pivot joint allows rotational or circular movement with no gliding. The most common joint here is the first and second cervical vertebrae (the upper neck) and it is where the majority of the neck’s rotational motion occurs.


Think of a saddle on a horse and a rider. This is how the bones in this joint fits together. There is motion in many directions, though none of it slides. Check out this video. Your thumb is a great example of a saddle joint. Try to move it in all directions right now and you’ll notice that despite all it can do, it doesn’t slide.

The Role of Chiropractic

Joints are complex. They allow for motion and provide stability. If you want to live the most functional and healthy life possible, you must take care of your joints. Joints often get stuck or don’t move through their full ranges of motion; they become restricted. This can cause communication system interference and decrease your overall health and wellness, and ultimately can promote deterioration of the joint (also known as arthritis).

The doctors at The Joint Chiropractic assess and help restore joint motion in order to remove nervous system interference and to promote proper joint health and wellness through regular chiropractic adjustments. Maintaining great joint health is not as simple as it seems, and chiropractic is far more profound and wide reaching in its benefits than it may first appear.

Regular chiropractic care helps maintain normal joint function at all times, meaning the body’s central nervous system works optimally, which ensures the body functions at its best. And that’s a connection you can get behind.

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