joint, in anatomy, juncture between two bones. Some joints are immovable, e.g., those that connect the bones of the skull, which are separated merely by short, tough fibers of cartilage. Movable joints are found for the most part in the limbs. Hinge joints provide a forward and backward motion, as at the elbow and knee. Pivot joints permit rotary movement, like the turning of the head from side to side. Ball-and-socket joints, like those at the hip and shoulder, allow the greatest range of movement, as the rounded end of one bone fits into the hollow or socket of another bone, separated by elastic cartilage. Joints can further be classified as fibrous, cartilaginous, and synovial. Collagen fibers connect fibrous joints. Synovial joints ease movement through the use of a lubricating liquid, supplied by the synovial membrane that lines movable joints. In synovial joints, a cushioning sac known as a bursa contains the fluid, which lubricates and nourishes the joint. Those joints which lack synovial fluid are nourished by blood. Holding the joints in place are strong ligaments fastened to the bones above and below the joint. Joints are subject to sprains and dislocations, as well as to infections and disorders caused by such diseases as arthritis. In recent years, the use of artificial joints has become increasingly common, particularly in hip and knee replacement. Many orthopedic surgeons now perform operations of this sort, using metal or plastic replacement joints in order to relieve pain, or to prevent or correct joint deformity.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.