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Joint Health

A joint is the 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 fibres 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.

Structural Classification

Structural classification names and divides joints according to how the bones are connected to each other.[3] There are three structural classifications of joints:

* fibrous joint - joined by fibrous connective tissue

* cartilaginous joint - joined by cartilage

* synovial joint - not directly joined

Functional Classification

Joints can also be classified functionally, by the degree of mobility they allow:

* synarthrosis - permits little or no mobility. Most synarthrosis joints are fibrous joints (e.g., skull sutures).

* amphiarthrosis - permits slight mobility. Most amphiarthrosis joints are cartilaginous joints (e.g., vertebrae).

* diarthrosis - permits a variety of movements. All diarthrosis joints are synovial joints (e.g., shoulder, hip, elbow, knee, etc.), and the terms "diarthrosis" and "synovial joint" are considered equivalent.

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 orthopaedic 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.

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