what bones make up hinge joints
Hinge joints function like hinges on a door. Multiple bones are involved in hinge joints depending on its location in the body

Hinge joints function like hinges on a door, formed between two or more bones and allowing movement on one plane. Multiple bones are involved in hinge joints depending on its location in the body:

  • Elbow (humerus, radius, ulna)
  • Knee (tibia, femur)
  • Interphalangeal joints (bones that form the fingers and toe)
  • Ankle joint or tibiotalar joint (tibia, talus)

What are hinge joints?

Hinge joints are joints in which the bones move in only one direction, back and forth, with restricted motion in other directions. The joint is covered by hyaline (clear-looking) cartilage, which protects the bony surfaces and is lubricated by synovial fluid. Muscles, ligaments, and other connective tissues, such as the joint capsule, provide stabilization to the joint.

Knee, elbow, and ankle joints are subjected to greater force and can support larger movements, while interphalangeal joints are smaller and contribute mainly to activities that require fine motor skills such as playing an instrument.

A hinge joint is more stable and less prone to dislocation than a ball-and-socket joint but offers less room for movement.

What problems can affect hinge joints?


Degeneration of bony cartilage leads to a joint condition called osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can result in pain when bending, joint swelling, and morning stiffness. Factors that can contribute to the development of the condition include:

  • Trauma to the joint
  • Body weight
  • Lifestyle
  • Activity level
  • Genes

Treatment of osteoarthritis involves two or more of the following:

  • Activity modification
  • Physical therapy or exercises
  • Painkillers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Steroids
  • Joint replacement


Gout is caused by the crystal deposits in the joints and can affect any joint, including hinge joints. The condition can lead to sudden severe pain in a joint, usually the big toe. However, people may experience pain in other joints of the feet, hands, wrists, elbows, or knees. Affected joints are more likely to be hot, swollen, and red.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that results in inflammatory joint conditions. Characteristic signs and symptoms include joint pain, swelling, morning stiffness, and fatigue, lasting anywhere between 30 minutes and a couple of hours. The most commonly affected joints include the small joints in the hands and feet. The condition can affect the knees and hips as well.


Hinge joints are relatively stable but can be dislocated, where a bone in the joint moves out of place. Commonly dislocated hinge joints include the joints of the fingers and toes or the interphalangeal joints. Dislocation of the shoulder joint may occur as a result of car accidents.

Injuries of the ligaments around the joints can make the hinge joint unstable and result in dislocation with minor trauma.

Fracture of the bones in the joint can affect the stability of the hinge joints and make joint movements difficult and painful.


Medically speaking, the term "myalgia" refers to what type of pain? See Answer

How to maintain the health of hinge joints

Joints typically degenerate with aging, particularly after age 60. However, because nowadays many people lead a sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity, osteoarthritis is becoming more common than it was decades ago.

To keep the joints healthy and functioning properly, here are a few tips to follow:

  • Keep moving. Staying in the same position for prolonged periods is bad for your joints. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, make sure to stretch your joints and try to move around during breaks to keep your joints functioning well.
  • Avoid overexertion. Using your joints too much can put strain on them, resulting in wear and tear of bony cartilage and joint dislocation.
  • Strengthen your muscles. Strong muscles can help prevent injury to your joints, especially when you’re playing sports.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess body weight puts more pressure on your joints and can result in painful joint movements.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/20/2021
Gupton M, Munjal A, Terreberry RR. Anatomy, Hinge Joints. [Updated 2021 Jul 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK518967/