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3 Types of Bone Joints

Dr Andrew Dutton - 3 Types of Bone Joints
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Bone joints are intricate structures vital for mobility and stability in the human body. Bone joint injuries and conditions are quite common, affecting individuals of all ages and backgrounds. In Singapore, for one, the usual joint injuries range from shoulder issues like sprains and rotator cuff tendinitis to knee problems such as ligament and cartilage damage.

Sports activities often cause injuries to the bone joints, including strains and tears from running, basketball, and soccer. Additionally, many adults suffer from osteoarthritis, which damages joint cartilage, affecting the knees, hands, spine, and hips.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the different kinds and classifications of bone joints, understand common joint injuries, and discuss actionable steps to address and prevent these issues.

What Is A Joint

A joint, also known as an articulation, is a structure in the body where two or more bones come together. Joints play a critical role in allowing movement, providing stability, and transmitting forces between bones and other structures. They come in various forms and serve different functions based on their location and design.

Joints can be classified into different types based on their structure and function. Structurally, joints are categorised as fibrous, cartilaginous, or synovial, depending on the type of connective tissue that holds the bones together. This is also known as the histological classification.

Functionally, joints are classified as immovable (synarthrosis), slightly movable (amphiarthrosis), or freely movable (diarthrosis), based on the degree of movement they permit. Correspondingly, synarthrosis joints are fibrous, amphiarthrosis joints are cartilaginous, and diarthrosis joints are synovial.

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Structural Or Histological Classification Of Joints

Fibrous Joints: Stability Through Connectivity

Fibrous joints, characterised by dense fibrous connective tissue, play a crucial role in providing stability and support to the skeletal system. Examples of these joints include the periodontal ligaments (mouth) and distal tibiofibular joint in the ankle, which allow for little to no movement, making them highly stable and well-suited for structures that require minimal flexibility.

Cartilaginous Joints: Balancing Support and Flexibility

Cartilaginous joints are connected by cartilage, either hyaline cartilage or fibrocartilage, which provides support and cushioning while permitting limited movement. Joints like these—including the intervertebral discs in the spine, costal cartilages in the thorax, pubic symphysis in the pelvis, and epiphyseal plates in the long bones—strike a balance between stability and flexibility.

Synovial Joints: Versatility in Movement

Synovial joints are the most common and versatile type of joint in the body, characterised by the presence of a synovial cavity filled with synovial fluid. These joints allow for a wide range of movements and are highly flexible, making possible the diverse functional demands of the body.

Synovial joints are further categorised based on their structure and the types of movements they permit. For example, hinge joints like those in the knee allow movement of elbows and knees while still providing stability. Ball-and-socket joints are found in the shoulders and hips and allow for an extensive range of motion during weight-bearing activities.

Read our Patient’s Guide When Seeking Orthopaedic Care in Singapore

Functional Classification of Joints

Synarthrosis Joints: Stability Through Immobility

Synarthrosis joints, characterised by their immobility, provide stability and structural integrity to specific regions of the body. Commonly found in the skull, mouth, and thorax, these joints are held together by dense fibrous connective tissue, limiting movement to prevent displacement and ensure proper function. Synarthrosis joints are crucial for supporting vital structures and protecting delicate organs.

Amphiarthrosis Joints: Flexibility with Stability

Amphiarthrosis joints, characterised by their slight mobility, offer a balance between stability and flexibility, allowing for limited movement while maintaining structural integrity. These joints can be found in the spine, pelvis, and ribs; and are connected by fibrous or cartilaginous tissue, providing cushioning and support. Amphiarthrosis joints are essential for absorbing shock and facilitating movement in areas subjected to moderate stress.

Diarthrosis Joints: Mobility and Flexibility

Diarthrosis joints, also known as synovial joints, are the most mobile and flexible type of joints in the body, enabling a wide range of movements in multiple planes. Located mostly in the limbs and spine, these joints are characterised by the presence of a synovial cavity filled with synovial fluid, which lubricates and nourishes the joint surfaces. Diarthrosis joints are crucial for facilitating complex movements essential for daily activities.

Read our Patient’s Guide When Seeking Orthopaedic Care in Singapore

Common Bone Joint Injuries

The types of bone joints that are most commonly injured vary depending on factors such as lifestyle, activity level, age, and underlying health conditions. However, some joints tend to be more susceptible to injury due to their anatomical structure and the stresses placed on them during daily activities or sports. In Singapore, three major diarthrosis joints—the knee, shoulder, and hip—face particular challenges due to their complex anatomy and the stresses of daily life. Injury in these three joints can severely affect the quality of everyday life as they affect movement and flexibility.

Knee

The knee joint, a synovial joint crucial for walking, bending, and more, is prone to conditions like osteoarthritis, ACL injuries, and meniscus tears. It is a type of hinge joint that can be affected by osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease. Sports-related injuries, such as ACL tears, are also prevalent. Moreover, meniscus tears contribute to knee pain and dysfunction, necessitating prompt treatment to maintain joint health. Below are the leading knee injury types and treatment options.

Patellar Fracture. Occurs from direct falls, overuse, or trauma, causing intense knee pain, swelling, and difficulty in movement. Treatment varies from surgical repair to rehabilitation for full recovery.

Knee Dislocation. Results from violent forces or sports injuries, leading to acute pain, swelling, and a visibly out-of-place knee. Management includes reduction, surgery, and immobilisation to restore function, though complete recovery may not be possible.

Knee Bursitis. Caused by repetitive motions or prolonged pressure, this condition presents as pain, swelling, and warmth in the knee, often resolving on its own or requiring medical intervention in persistent cases.

Patellar Tendonitis. Known as “jumper’s knee,” it is an overuse injury with symptoms like pain below the kneecap and knee weakness, typically treated with physiotherapy and rest.

Knee Ligament Injury. Involves tearing of knee ligaments due to sudden movements or impacts, characterised by pain, swelling, and instability, with recovery options ranging from rehabilitation to surgery depending on severity.

Shoulder

The shoulder joint, highly mobile yet prone to instability, faces challenges like rotator cuff tears, impingement syndrome, and frozen shoulder. It is a type of ball-and-socket joint prone to overuse and trauma among athletes and active individuals. Common shoulder injuries include:

Rotator Cuff Tear. Results from repetitive use or acute injury, causing pain and weakness. Treatments include rest, therapy, or surgery.

Shoulder Impingement. Caused by muscle pinching during arm lifting, leading to pain and limited movement. Managed with rest, therapy, and sometimes surgery.

Frozen Shoulder. Characterised by progressive pain and stiffness. Treatment involves therapy, medications, and occasionally surgery to restore motion.

Shoulder Dislocation. The arm bone is dislodged from the socket due to impact, causing intense pain and immobility. Requires reduction, followed by rest and rehab.

SLAP Tear. Involves damage to the shoulder’s labrum from trauma or overuse, presenting with ache, popping, and weakness. Mild cases may need therapy, while severe tears might require surgery.

Hip

Hip pain is a widespread issue that becomes more prevalent with age, affecting overall quality of life. Its complexity stems from the variety of potential sources, making accurate diagnosis challenging. Often, pain felt in the hip area may actually be “referred pain” from adjacent regions such as the intestines or spine, complicating the identification of the true cause of discomfort. Common hip problems include:

Hip Fracture. Often due to falls or impacts, causing severe pain and mobility issues. Treatment usually involves surgery followed by physical therapy.

Labral Tears. Damage to the hip’s labrum from overuse or trauma, leading to pain and stiffness. Managed with rest, physical therapy, or arthroscopic surgery.

Hip Bursitis. Inflammation of the bursae causes pain and tenderness around the hip. Treatment includes rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy.

Hip Dislocation. The femur pops out of its socket, usually after significant trauma, resulting in immediate pain and inability to move the leg. Requires emergency reduction and rehabilitation.

Osteoarthritis of the Hip. Degradation of joint cartilage leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. Managed with lifestyle changes, physical therapy, medications, and possibly surgery.

Actionable Steps

Dealing with bone joint injuries and pain requires a careful and active approach to improve your condition and prevent further issues. It’s crucial to seek medical help quickly, follow preventive advice, and engage in appropriate exercises for rehabilitation.

Choosing the right doctor, especially an experienced orthopaedic surgeon, is key to a successful recovery. They ensure the use of the best surgical techniques, which helps in minimising complications and reducing the chances of getting hurt again. With a medical practice dating back to 1996, A/Professor Dutton completed his subspecialty in hip and knee surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School before opening his clinic in Singapore.

For the specialised care and treatment you deserve, please book a consultation with A/Professor Andrew Dutton or fill up the form below. You may also call us at (+65) 6836 8000, and we would be happy to answer your questions.

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About A/Professor Andrew Quoc Dutton

A/Professor Dutton, also known as, has been in clinical practice since 1996 after graduating from Marist College, Canberra and the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. A/Professor Dutton has worked at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, and the St. George Hospital, Sydney, before completing his orthopaedic surgery training in Singapore. He is currently an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

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