Exploring the Domain of a Modern Joint Specialist

Apr 24, 2018 | Articles

Exploring the Domain of a Modern Joint Specialist

 It may come as a bit of a surprise to the average lay person to learn that if one includes the twenty located within the ears, most anatomical authorities agree that the human body contains about 360 joints. They are divided into three structural classes. The fibrous class, in which the bones are connected by collagen fibres and lack a synovial fluid cavity, are fixed. Cartilaginous joints also have no synovial cavity, but some are mobile to a limited degree. Finally, those classified as synovial are encased in a fluid-filled articular capsule that serves to lubricate the fully-mobile, cartilage-coated, articulating surfaces of the bones involved. Among the more frequent tasks of joint specialists is to identify and to treat the problems that cause pain and impaired mobility in various synovial joints.

Of the eleven types of joints that fall into one or another of these classes, just six are significantly moveable, and these are categorised according to the type of movement they display. The elbow, for instance, is an example of the hinged variety, while the rotary type of articulation seen in the shoulder and pelvis is made possible by a ball and socket structure. Pivot joints make the rotation between the head and the neck possible, as well as between the radius and ulna bones of the forearm, whilst that of the wrist is due to the gliding action between two flat bones typical of condyloid joints. In the hands and feet, movement is achieved with a combination of saddle and planar types, and these too are the domain of joint specialists.

Typical of man-made machines, their moving parts will tend to display signs of wear and tear over time and, from time to time, they may become more severely damaged as the result of misuse. This is no less true of the machine. In this case, however, whether it is the result of accidental damage or due to the natural process of aging, the repair to or replacement of the affected moving parts is not the responsibility of a mechanic, but of an orthopaedic surgeon or, more specifically, a joint specialist.

Damage to the knee is a frequent occurrence among sportsmen and women, and unless this type of injury is treated correctly and in time, there is a risk that this could spell the end of a promising career or even result in permanent disability. The common result of an injury is a torn meniscus, and a prompt repair by an orthopaedic surgeon should normally restore full mobility to the injured knee and eliminate any further pain. Where the damage is more severe, a repair may not be possible, so instead the joint specialists of today have the necessary skills and technology to replace all or part of a damaged knee joint with a fully functional prosthesis.

Known as arthroplasty, it is a procedure more often used to remedy the damage caused by osteoarthritis, rather than that resulting from an accidental injury. Similar procedures to rectify problems with the hip and shoulder are also in common use, and while this previously required radical surgery to expose the entire joint area, the arthroscope has made it possible for joint specialists to employ minimally-invasive keyhole surgery for partial and total replacements instead.