The bones of fibrous joints are held together by fibrous connective tissue. There is no cavity, or space, present between the bones and so most fibrous joints do not move at all, or are only capable of minor movements. There are three types of fibrous joints: sutures, syndesmoses, and gomphoses. Sutures are found only in the skull and possess short fibers of connective tissue that hold the skull bones tightly in place (Figure 19.23).

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Figure 19.23. Sutures are fibrous joints found only in the skull.

Syndesmoses are joints in which the bones are connected by a band of connective tissue, allowing for more movement than in a suture. An example of a syndesmosis is the joint of the tibia and fibula in the ankle. The amount of movement in these types of joints is determined by the length of the connective tissue fibers. Gomphoses occur between teeth and their sockets; the term refers to the way the tooth fits into the socket like a peg (Figure 19.24). The tooth is connected to the socket by a connective tissue referred to as the periodontal ligament.

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Figure 19.24. Gomphoses are fibrous joints between the teeth and their sockets. (credit: modification of work by Gray’s Anatomy)

Synovial joints are the only joints that have a space between the adjoining bones (Figure 19.25). This space is referred to as the synovial (or joint) cavity and is filled with synovial fluid. Synovial fluid lubricates the joint, reducing friction between the bones and allowing for greater movement. The ends of the bones are covered with articular cartilage, a hyaline cartilage, and the entire joint is surrounded by an articular capsule composed of connective tissue that allows movement of the joint while resisting dislocation. Articular capsules may also possess ligaments that hold the bones together. Synovial joints are capable of the greatest movement of the three structural joint types; however, the more mobile a joint, the weaker the joint. Knees, elbows, and shoulders are examples of synovial joints.

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Figure 19.25. Synovial joints are the only joints that have a space or “synovial cavity” in the joint.

Synovial joints are further classified into six different categories on the basis of the shape and structure of the joint. The shape of the joint affects the type of movement permitted by the joint (Figure 19.26). These joints can be described as planar, hinge, pivot, condyloid, saddle, or ball-and-socket joints.

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Figure 19.26. Different types of joints allow different types of movement. Planar, hinge, pivot, condyloid, saddle, and ball-and-socket are all types of synovial joints.

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Planar joints have bones with articulating surfaces that are flat or slightly curved faces. These joints allow for gliding movements, and so the joints are sometimes referred to as gliding joints. The range of motion is limited in these joints and does not involve rotation. Planar joints are found in the carpal bones in the hand and the tarsal bones of the foot, as well as between vertebrae (Figure 19.27).

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Figure 19.27. The joints of the carpal bones in the wrist are examples of planar joints. (credit: modification of work by Brian C. Goss)