Description of ball and socket joint

Updated February 21, 2017

The human body is composed of ingenious mechanisms for locomotion. One of the most critical is the ball and socket joint. This mechanism allows a range of motion in almost every direction. However, because it is such a versatile joint and is used extensively in everyday actions it is prone to injury. These injuries can cause continual pain, lack of mobility and limitations to activity.

Which Joints are Ball and Socket Joints?

The hip, the ankle and the shoulder are all ball and socket joints that allow movement in virtually every direction. The shoulder is the most flexible of these three joints, while the hip is the most stable, according to The ankle joint is the most delicate.

The Mechanism of the Ball and Socket Joint

The ball and socket joint consists of a cuplike bone socket that cradles the ball-shaped, rounded end of the adjacent bone. A lining of cartilage helps to hold the ball-shaped joint firmly within the socket. It is held together with ligaments and tendons and surrounded by bursa that contain the lubricating fluids that allow the joints to move effortlessly and without injury. As people age, however, less of the lubricating fluid is produced, and the normal wear of two bones rubbing together can cause varying degrees of damage.

Problems with Ball and Socket Joints

Many injuries and diseases can cause dysfunction of the ball and socket, leading to pain and immobility. Osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease that comes with ageing, is one of the most common problems of ball and socket joints. Impingement can prevent raising the arm above the head. Recurrent dislocation can also occur in the shoulder joint when the connective tissue does not hold the ball in the socket joint, according the University of Iowa web site on shoulder injuries. The hip joint can become inflamed or injured causing chronic pain.

Treatment of Ball and Socket Joint Problems

Treatment of ball and socket joint injuries and diseases can range from rest, heat and physiotherapy to complete replacement of the joint for advanced cases. Some case require bracing of the joint. A number of surgeries are done to repair tissues to stabilise the joint. These require limitation of activity for some time after surgery to allow the joint tissues to heal properly. Physiotherapy is generally required after surgery.

Ball and Socket Joint Replacement

Disease or damage of the ball and socket joints can progress to the extent that the joint must be replaced. Replacing joints with titanium or cobalt/chromium with polythene materials has a high rate of success. Hip and shoulder replacement surgery is routine all around the world, but successful ankle replacement surgery hasn't been around as long and has had a more uneven record. Arthritis Insight says the surgery appears to have a shorter lifespan in younger people and that ankle replacement generally is not recommended in patients younger than 50.

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