Hinge Joint Examples in Anatomy

A hinge joint, also known as a ginglymus, is a synovial joint in the bones of an animal or person that allows movement in an open-and-close direction. Hinge joints are assisted by other tissues, including cartilage and ligaments, to connect, bend and protect the bones from rubbing together. Explore various hinge joint examples in the body as well as hinge joint movements.

elbow hinge joint open closed elbow hinge joint open closed
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The Elbow

The elbow joint, or humeroulnar joint, connects the upper portion of the arm (humerus) to the two bones in the lower arms (radius and ulna). The humeroulnar joint is located between a notch in the ulna and a notch in the humerus. It may seem like it can rotate your elbow as well, but that's actually your shoulder joint; the elbow only opens and closes.

The Hand

Your hand is full of hinge joints that connect your fingers together and help them move. These might be some of the most important hinge joints in the human body, considering how much we use our hands every day.

There are three sets of joints in our hands:

  • The metacarpophalangeal joints are hinge joints between the metacarpal bones of the hand and the phalanges, or finger bones. When you make a fist, your knuckles appear at your metacarpophalangeal joints.
  • The proximal interphalangeal joints are located between the first and second phalange. Proximal interphalangeal joints form knuckles in the middle of the finger. This joint uses the term "proximal" because it is closer to the rest of the body.
  • The distal interphalangeal joints are hinge joints between the second and third phalanges. These joints are the ones closest to the tips of the fingers; they are named "distal" because they are the farthest away from the body. Your thumbs are missing this joint because they only have two pl

Both sets of interphalangeal joints on the fingers exhibit two movements: flexion (closing your hand into a fist) and extension (straightening out your fingers).

The Foot

Your feet have the same three types of hinge joints as your hands. Metatarsophalangeal joints connect the tarsals (foot bones) with the bottom phalanges, proximal interphalangeal joints connect the first and second phalanges and distal interphalangeal joints connect the second and third phalanges. Just like your thumb, the big toe only has two phalanges, so it doesn't have a distal interphalangeal joint.

The Knee

There are two large hinge joints in the knee: the tibiofemoral joint, which attaches your thigh (femur) to your lower leg (tibia), and the patellofemoral joint, which attaches the femur to the patella (kneecap). The knee joint is the largest joint in the human body. It is technically a modified hinge joint since you can rotate your knee slightly.

The Ankle

Your ankle joint is another type of hinge joint that is responsible for the motion of your feet at the ankles. The hinge joint location of the ankle is made up of three separate joints:

  • The talocrural joint connects the talus bone on top of the foot to the tibia and fibula (leg bones) and takes care of the front-to-back motion.
  • The subtalar joint is located where the talus and calcaneus (heel bone) come together. It allows for inversion (movement toward the inside of the leg) and eversion (movement toward the outside of the leg).
  • The distal tibiofibular joint joins the tibia and fibula bones at the ankle. It allows limited movement of the foot by holding the bones together and accommodating talar rotation.

Like the knee joint, this hinge joint is rather unique in that it allows for some side-to-side movement. However, it functions primarily in an open-and-close movement.

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Is the Jaw a Hinge Joint?

The temporomandibular joint in your jaw is a special joint with many different functions. It can function as a hinge joint when it allows you to open and close your mouth. However, like an arthrodial (sliding) joint, it can also move from side to side. Jaw joints are typically classified as ginglymoarthrodial joints to describe both their hinge and sliding functions.

We Need Hinges to Move

Can you imagine our bodies without hinge joints? We certainly wouldn't be able to walk, eat, type, write, swim, or perform any other type of movement that requires flexing or extending our limbs. However, hinge joints are only part of the movement story. Learn more about how your body moves with smooth muscle examples. You can also see how joints figure into the context of the human body with names and basic functions of the parts of the body.