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What Is the Biomechanics of Joints?

Erik J.J. Goserud
Erik J.J. Goserud

As the components bio and mechanics suggest, the word biomechanics is the mechanical study of biological systems. This science looks at the body as a machine and attempts to make sense of its moving parts using the physical principles often utilized by engineers. The biomechanics of joints is simply this science applied specifically to the joints of the body.

Joints are places where two or more bones meet. These bones do not magically fit together like an anatomical puzzle but are, rather, fused with a variety of cartilaginous structures known as ligaments. There are also muscles and tendons involved in the joining of bones. Joints can move in many different ways depending on their locations and the bones that come together.

A diagram of the knee joint.
A diagram of the knee joint.

Comparing the shoulder versus the knee are two examples of the biomechanics of joints. A shoulder allows movement in almost every direction. This is due to its unique composition. The knee, contrarily, only allows for the flexion and extension of the leg — still useful movements but not nearly as free moving as the shoulder.

There are many different kinds of joints that can give clues to their abilities to move. There are the ball and socket, pivot, and gliding joints to name a few. Other types include the conyloid, hinge, and saddle joints. Each different type of bone merger gives rise to differing biomechanics of joints. Some are designed to be more limiting and stable, whereas others seem to be placed exclusively for free movement.

Studying the biomechanics of joints is important for many different reasons. Gathering new information about how movement, forces, and stress affect joints can help treat injury, improve performance, and prevent chronic pain and disease. Most scientists involved in studying the biomechanics of joints do so by viewing and analyzing specific movements and using this information to hypothesize and draw conclusions about ways in which people can move better.

Joints are a particularly problematic area of the body. For one, many autoimmune diseases target joints. Secondly, they are places of high stress and activity, also allowing the opportunity for bones to rub on top of one another. All of these factors contribute to the particular importance of studying the biomechanics of joints. Health care professionals can learn from the new information harnessed by scientists and apply it in a way that provides real-life solutions for those suffering from joint problems.

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    • A diagram of the knee joint.
      By: Alila
      A diagram of the knee joint.