Welcome to our Patient Education Center

Here you will find answers to your questions about joint anatomy, the journey from injury to recovery, and what to expect every step of the way.


Joints put movement in our lives. They enable us to stand upright, walk and sit. There are hundreds of joints in the adult human body. Our Patient Education Center is focused on the body’s major ball-and-socket joints, like the shoulders and hips, and hinge joints, like the elbows, knees and ankles. Let’s get started.

To learn more, click on a joint below:

About Your Joints

Joints are the made up the connected ends of bones as well as ligaments, tendons, cartilage and synovial fluid:

  • Bones, specifically their articulated ends, make up the joint
  • Ligaments are short bands of tough fibrous connective tissue that function to connect one bone to another, forming the joint.
  • Tendons are made of elastic tissue and also play a key role in the functioning of joints. They connect muscle to bone.
  • Cartilage is a fibrous tissue that covers the bone surface and keeps the bones from rubbing directly against each other.
  • Synovial fluid lubricates joints so they can move freely.

So the next time you throw a ball with your kids, raise a glass for a toast or sit down for a long conversation with a friend, thank your joints. Healthy joints mean we can do all the activities we love, with freedom of movement and without pain. And that’s what this Patient Education Center is all about.

Joint Facts: Why do Joints Crack?

Your Knee: the Largest Joint in Your Body

The knee, one of the hardest working joints in the body, is a hinge joint. Like hinges used to open and close a door, hinge joints allow certain parts of the body to bend and extend.

The bones of the knee joint consist of three parts: the femur (lower end of the thigh bone) which rotates on the upper end of the tibia (shin bone) and the patella (knee cap), which slides in a groove on the end of the femur.

Joint movement is enabled and controlled by a network of muscles, ligaments and tendons. Cartilage provides a buffer between bone surfaces, and synovial fluid keeps the joint lubricated.

Learn more about the knee

Your Hip: the Weight-bearing Joint

A ball and socket joint, your hip is one of the strongest, most stable joints in the body. Responsible for supporting the weight of the body in both static and active postures, the hip joint is made up of the head of the femur – the "ball" – and the depression in your pelvic bone – the "socket".

It is also one of the most mobile joints in the body, enabling you to move your legs in three planes: forward and backward (extension/flexion), inward and outward (adduction/abduction) and inward twist and outward twist (internal and external rotation).

The joint is supported by the gluteal muscles (buttocks) and a strong fibrous capsule reinforced by ligaments.

Learn more about the hip

Your Shoulder: the Most Mobile Joint in Your Body

Also known as the glenohumeral joint, the shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint analogous to a golf ball sitting on a tee. Because it is multi-axial, the shoulder has a wide range of motion – the most in the human body.

The shoulder is made up of the glenoid fossa (pocket) of the scapula (shoulder blade), the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) and the clavicle (collarbone). These three bones are surrounded by cartilage, and muscles and tendons (called the rotator cuff) that help stabilize the joint. Because mobility is more important than stability, the shoulder joint is weaker than other joints and can be prone to problems.

Learn more about the shoulder

Your Spine: Strength and Flexibility

Also known as the vertebral column or backbone, the spine runs from the back of the pelvis to the back of the neck. Made up of over 100 joints from 26 vertebrae and 23 intervertebral discs of cartilage, the spine supports the body and also protects the spinal cord.

The spine is made up of 5 regions: cervical (seven vertebrae), thoracic (12 vertebrae), lumbar (5 vertebrae), sacrum (five fused vertebrae) and the coccyx (four fused vertebrae). The spine also has three distinct curves: two lordic and one kyphotic.

The cervical vertebrae are the most mobile to support and enable upper body movement. The thoracic vertebrae are designed for minimal movement to protect the internal organs, and the large, stocky lumbar vertebrae support the weight of the body.

Learn more about the spine

Your Elbow: the "Funny Bone"

The elbow, like the knee, is a hinge joint which enables the arm to flex and bend. Three bones make up the elbow joint: the humerus (upper arm), the radius and ulna (two bones that make up the forearm). The olecranon process is the bony knob at the end of your elbow.

The articulating surfaces of the elbow are held together by ligaments made up of the ulnar collateral ligament, radial collateral ligament and the annular ligament.

Ever had that pins-and-needles sensation when you’ve bumped your elbow? That’s due to the ulnar nerve that runs in a groove in your ulna. Movement of the elbow joint is controlled by muscles, ligaments and tendons.

Learn more about the elbow

Your Wrist: the Most Complex Joint in Your Body

The wrist joint, or radiocarpal joint, is a synovial joint which means the articulating (moving) surfaces are encapsulated and lubricated by synovial fluid. The joint is formed by the radius and ulna (forearm), and eight carpal and five metacarpal bones.

Because there are so many bones involved in the wrist, there are many joints as well. Ligaments, tendons and cartilage also make up the wrist joint. This region also includes the carpal tunnel which is the passageway of bones and connective tissue that joins the forearm to the palm.

The wrist joint has to be flexible to enable hand mobility, but also strong to support a good grip.

Learn more about the wrist

Your Ankle: the Joint Most Under Pressure

The ankle joint is where the foot and leg meet. A hinge joint, it connects the ends of the tibia and fibula (lower leg) and the talus bone in the foot. The medial and lateral malleoli are the bony knobs on either side of the ankle. The joint surfaces are covered with articular cartilage. The ankle joint is made up of 35 joints held together by muscles, tendons and four ligaments: the deltoid, anterior talofibular, posterior talofibular and the calcaneofibular ligaments.

Foot and ankle injuries are one of the most frequent causes of visits to the doctor. Walking puts up to 1.5 times your bodyweight on your foot; and your feet log 1,000 miles per year. One hour of strenuous exercise can add up to one million pounds of pressure on your feet and ankles.

Learn more about the ankle


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