Saddle Joint Examples and Definition

What are Saddle Joints?

Saddle joints, also known as saddle-shaped joints or sellar joints, are a type of synovial joint found in the human body. They are so named because the articulating surfaces of the joint resemble a saddle, similar to the ones used for riding horses. These joints are classified as a type of biaxial joint because they allow movement in two planes.

The most well-known saddle joints examples in the human body is the joint between the wrist’s trapezium bone and the thumb’s first metacarpal bone. The trapezium bone has a concave surface in this joint, while the first metacarpal bone has a convex surface. The combination of these two surfaces creates a saddle-shaped articulation.

Saddle joints allow for a wide range of movement, including flexion, extension, abduction (moving away from the midline), adduction (moving toward the midline), circumduction (circular movement), and opposition (bringing the thumb and little finger together). The shape of the joint surfaces and the presence of ligaments and tendons help provide stability to the joint and prevent excessive movement.

These joints provide versatility and agility to the human body, enabling precise movements and grasping abilities, particularly in the case of the thumb joint.

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What is Synovial Joint?

A synovial joint, also known as diarthrosis, is a type of joint found in the body that allows for free movement between the articulating bones. It is the most common and structurally complex type of joint in the human body. The presence of a synovial cavity, articular cartilage, a joint capsule, synovial fluid, and various supporting structures characterizes synovial joints.

Here are the key components of a synovial joint:

  • Synovial cavity: This is a space between the articulating bones that contains synovial fluid. The synovial cavity allows for smooth movement and reduces friction between the bones.
  • Articular cartilage: The ends of the bones that form the joint are covered with a layer of smooth, slippery cartilage called articular cartilage. It provides cushioning and helps in absorbing shock during movement.
  • Joint capsule: The joint is surrounded by a joint capsule, which is a fibrous connective tissue structure. It encloses the joint and helps to hold the bones together, providing stability.
  • Synovial fluid: Synovial fluid is a viscous fluid secreted by the synovial membrane that lines the joint capsule. It acts as a lubricant, nourishes the articular cartilage, and helps reduce friction between the joint’s moving surfaces.
  • Ligaments: Ligaments are tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones and provide stability to the joint. They reinforce the joint capsule and help prevent excessive movement.
  • Menisci: Some synovial joints, such as the knee joint, have specialized structures called menisci. Menisci are crescent-shaped fibrocartilaginous discs located between the articulating surfaces of the bones. They help improve the fit between the bones and provide shock absorption.
  • Bursae: Bursae are small fluid-filled sacs located around certain synovial joints. They act as cushions between tendons, ligaments, and bones, reducing friction and facilitating smooth movement.

Examples of synovial joints in the human body include the shoulder joint, elbow joint, hip joint, knee joint, and ankle joint. These joints allow for a wide range of movements, such as flexion, extension, rotation, abduction, and adduction, enabling us to perform various activities and functions.

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Types of Synovial Joints

Synovial joints are found in the body where two or more bones articulate. These joints are characterized by a synovial cavity, a space filled with synovial fluid that lubricates the joint and reduces friction during movement. There are several types of synovial joints, including:

  • Hinge Joint: This type of joint allows movement in only one plane, like a hinge on a door. Examples of hinge joints include the elbow joint and the knee joint.
  • Ball and Socket Joint: In this type of joint, the rounded end of one bone fits into a cup-like socket of another bone. It allows for movement in multiple directions, including rotation. The hip and shoulder joints are examples of ball and socket joints.
  • Pivot Joint: Pivot joints allow rotational movement around a central axis. They consist of one bone with a rounded process that fits into a ring or notch of another bone. An example of a pivot joint is the joint between the first and second vertebrae of the neck, which allows for the rotation of the head.
  • Condyloid Joint: Also known as ellipsoidal joints, condyloid joints allow movement in two planes. They consist of an oval-shaped end of one bone fitting into an elliptical cavity of another bone. The joint at the base of the index finger, where it meets the hand, is an example of a condyloid joint.
  • Saddle Joint: Saddle joints are similar to condyloid joints but allow for a greater range of movement. They occur when the surfaces of two bones are shaped like a saddle and fit together. The joint at the base of the thumb, where it meets the wrist, is an example of a saddle joint.
  • Gliding Joint: Gliding joints, also known as plane joints, allow sliding or gliding movements between flat surfaces of bones. These joints provide limited movement in multiple directions. Examples of gliding joints include the joints between the small bones of the wrists and ankles.

These are the main types of synovial joints found in the human body. Each type of joint has its structure and range of movement, enabling different types of motions and contributing to the overall flexibility and functionality of the skeletal system.

How do Saddle Joints Move?

These joints allow for movement in two perpendicular planes, providing a wide range of motion. The articulating surfaces of a saddle joint are convex in one direction and concave in the other, resembling the shape of a rider’s saddle. This distinctive structure allows for increased flexibility and stability in multiple directions.

  • The movement at a saddle joint is called a biaxial movement, which occurs around two axes. The main movements at a saddle joint are flexion and extension, abduction and adduction, and circumduction.
  • Flexion and Extension: Flexion refers to decreasing the angle between the bones at the joint, while extension refers to increasing the angle. In the case of the carpometacarpal joint of the thumb, flexion occurs when the thumb is moved toward the palm, while extension occurs when the thumb is moved away from the palm.
  • Abduction and Adduction: Abduction involves moving a body part away from the body’s midline, while adduction involves moving it back toward the midline. In the context of the thumb’s saddle joint, abduction occurs when the thumb moves away from the fingers, allowing it to be extended away from the hand. Adduction occurs when the thumb returns to its neutral position, moving back toward the fingers.
  • Circumduction: Circumduction is a combination of flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction. It involves moving a body part in a circular or cone-shaped motion. In the case of the saddle joint of the thumb, circumduction allows the thumb to move in a circular motion, enabling it to touch different points on the fingertips.

These various movements of the saddle joint provide great versatility and precision in the movement of the thumb, allowing us to perform activities that require grasping, manipulating objects, and specific fine motor skills.

It’s worth noting that while the carpometacarpal joint of the thumb is the only saddle joint in the human body, there are other saddle joints in the body as well, such as the sternoclavicular joint (between the sternum and clavicle) and the acromioclavicular joint (between the acromion process of the scapula and the clavicle). The movements at these joints are similar, allowing for multi-directional motion.

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Features of Saddle Joints

Here are some key features of saddle joints examples:

  • Shape: These joints are named after their saddle-like shape. The joint surface of one bone is concave in one direction (similar to the saddle’s seat) and convex in the other direction. In contrast, the corresponding joint surface of the other bone is convex in one direction and concave in the other direction. This unique shape allows for increased stability and a wider range of motion.
  • Articular surfaces: Saddle joints have two articulating surfaces—one that is convex and the other that is concave. One bone’s convex surface fits into the other bone’s concave surface, forming a double saddle-like configuration. This arrangement enhances the joint’s stability and helps prevent excessive movement.
  • Location: The thumb is the only saddle joint in the human body. This joint is formed between the trapezium bone (in the wrist) and the first metacarpal bone (in the thumb). It can also be found in other areas, such as the sternoclavicular joint (between the clavicle and sternum) and the acromioclavicular joint (between the clavicle and scapula).
  • Range of motion: These joints allow movement in multiple planes. They provide flexion and extension, abduction and adduction, and circumduction. The thumb’s carpometacarpal joint allows for opposition—opposable movement between the thumb and fingers—which is crucial for grasping and manipulating objects.
  • Ligamentous support: Like other synovial joints, these are supported by ligaments that provide stability and limit excessive movement. Ligaments surrounding saddle joints help hold the bones properly and prevent dislocation.
  • Synovial fluid: These joints are filled with synovial fluid, a viscous fluid that lubricates the joint surfaces, reduces friction, and nourishes the joint tissues. This fluid helps in smooth movement and protects the joint surfaces from wear and tear.

These joints are essential for the complex movements of the thumb and other joints, enabling precise and versatile actions in various activities.

Locations of Saddle Joints in Human Body

In the human body, saddle joints examples are found in two main locations:

  • Carpometacarpal joint of the thumb: The saddle joint between the wrist’s trapezium bone and the thumb’s first metacarpal bone allows for the thumb’s unique opposable movement. This joint enables the thumb to move across the palm and touch the other fingers, which is crucial for activities requiring precision grip and manipulation.
  • Sternoclavicular joint: The sternoclavicular joint is between the sternum (breastbone) and the clavicle (collarbone). It is the only true saddle joint in the body, and it allows for various saddle joint movement of the shoulder girdle, such as elevation, depression, protraction, retraction, and rotation.

Saddle Joint Examples

Here are some saddle joints examples in the human body:

  • Carpometacarpal Joint of the Thumb: The joint between the wrist’s trapezium bone and the thumb’s first metacarpal bone is a saddle joint. This joint allows the thumb to move in multiple directions, including opposition (touching the thumb to the tips of the other fingers) and repositioning (bringing the thumb back to its resting position).
  • Sternoclavicular Joint: The joint between the clavicle (collarbone) and the sternum (breastbone) is a saddle joint. This joint allows for movements such as protraction (forward movement), retraction (backward movement), elevation (upward movement), and depression (downward movement) of the shoulder girdle.
  • Intercarpal Joints: The joints between the carpal bones (bones of the wrist) are saddle joints examples. These joints allow for movements like flexion (bending) and extension (straightening) of the wrist, as well as abduction (moving the hand away from the midline) and adduction (bringing the hand back towards the midline).
  • Acromioclavicular Joint: The joint between the acromion process of the scapula (shoulder blade) and the clavicle is a saddle joint. This joint allows for elevation, depression, and shoulder rotation.

These are just a few saddle joints examples in the human body. These are relatively rare compared to other synovial joints, but they provide mobility and stability in specific areas of the body.

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Sternocalvicular Joint

The sternoclavicular joint (SC joint) is a synovial joint in the upper chest region. It is formed by the articulation between the sternum (breastbone) and the clavicle (collarbone). The SC joint is the only one directly connecting the upper limb to the axial skeleton.

Anatomy of the Sternoclavicular Joint:

  • The sternum: The sternum is a flat bone located in the middle of the chest. It consists of the manubrium, the body, and the xiphoid process. The articulation between the manubrium and the clavicle forms the SC joint.
  • The clavicle: The clavicle is a long, S-shaped bone that connects the sternum to the scapula (shoulder blade). It serves as a strut to support the shoulder, allowing a wide range of movements.

Structures and Ligaments

Several structures and ligaments stabilize and support the sternoclavicular joint, including:

  • Articular Disc: The SC joint contains a small fibrocartilaginous articular disc that separates the clavicle and the sternum, providing cushioning and stability.
  • Anterior and Posterior Sternoclavicular Ligaments: These ligaments reinforce the joint capsule anteriorly and posteriorly, providing stability and limiting excessive movement.
  • Interclavicular Ligament: It connects the superior surfaces of the sternal ends of both clavicles, providing additional support.
  • Costoclavicular Ligament: This ligament extends from the first rib to the inferior surface of the clavicle, offering strong support and preventing upward dislocation of the clavicle.


The sternoclavicular joint allows a variety of movements, including:

  • Elevation and Depression: Upward and downward movements of the clavicle.
  • Protraction and Retraction: Forward and backward movements of the clavicle.
  • Rotation: The clavicle can rotate around its longitudinal axis, contributing to shoulder movements.

Injuries and Conditions

The sternoclavicular joint is relatively stable due to the surrounding ligaments. However, injuries and conditions that affect the SC joint can occur, including:

  • Dislocation: Dislocation of the SC joint can occur due to trauma or excessive force, causing pain, swelling, and limited shoulder movement.
  • Subluxation: Subluxation refers to partial or incomplete dislocation of the joint.
  • Arthritis: Arthritis, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, can affect the SC joint, leading to joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
  • Tumors and Infections: Rarely, tumors or infections can affect the sternoclavicular joint, causing localized symptoms.

Treatment of sternoclavicular joint injuries or conditions may involve conservative measures, such as rest, immobilization, physical therapy, and pain management. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to stabilize or repair the joint. Treatment approaches depend on the specific injury or condition and should be determined by a healthcare professional familiar with the individual case.

Trapeziometacarpal Joint

The trapeziometacarpal (TMC) joint is located at the base of the thumb, where the trapezium bone in the wrist articulates with the metacarpal bone of the thumb. It is also known as the thumb carpometacarpal (CMC) joint.

The TMC joint is a saddle joint, allowing for a wide range of movement, including flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, opposition, and circumduction. This joint is responsible for the thumb’s ability to perform precise grasping and fine motor movements, essential for many everyday activities.

The TMC joint is surrounded by ligaments that help stabilize and support the joint. The thumb’s radial collateral ligament is the most important ligament, which runs along the side of the joint closest to the index finger. This ligament is crucial for maintaining stability during thumb movements.

The TMC joint is prone to certain conditions and injuries, such as osteoarthritis, the most common condition affecting the joint. Osteoarthritis of the TMC joint occurs when the cartilage that covers the bones wears away, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced thumb function.

Treatment for TMC joint conditions depends on the severity and the individual’s symptoms. Conservative measures like splinting, pain medication, and hand therapy daily exercises may be recommended for mild cases. Surgical options such as joint reconstruction, fusion, or replacement may be considered in more advanced cases.

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Incudomalleolar Joint

The incudomalleolar joint, also known as the incudomallear or incudomalleolar articulation, is a small synovial joint in the middle ear. It is crucial in transmitting sound vibrations from the eardrum (tympanic membrane) to the inner ear.


The incudomalleolar joint is formed by the articulation between two tiny bones (ossicles) within the middle ear: the incus (anvil) and the malleus (hammer). The incus is the second ossicle between the malleus and the stapes. The malleus is attached to the eardrum, and the incus connects the malleus to the stapes. The stapes then transmit the sound vibrations to the oval window, which leads to the inner ear.


When sound waves enter the ear canal, they cause the eardrum to vibrate. These vibrations are transmitted through the ossicles in the middle ear, starting with the malleus. The malleus transfers the vibrations to the incus, which, in turn, passes them on to the stapes. The stapes finally transmit the vibrations to the fluid-filled cochlea in the inner ear, converting them into electrical signals that the brain can interpret as sound.

The incudomalleolar joint allows for the smooth transfer of vibrations between the malleus and the incus. This joint is pivotal for the proper amplification and transmission of sound waves through the middle ear, enhancing the efficiency of the auditory process.

Disorders and Pathologies

The incudomalleolar joint can be affected by various middle ear disorders and pathologies, such as:

  • Ossicular Dislocation: Trauma or chronic ear infections can lead to the displacement or dislocation of the ossicles, including the incus and malleus. It can result in hearing loss or a disruption in the conduction of sound vibrations.
  • Ossicular Chain Disruption: Disruption or breakage of the ossicular chain, including the incudomalleolar joint, can occur due to trauma, chronic ear infections, or other middle ear pathologies. This disruption can impair sound transmission and lead to conductive hearing loss.
  • Otosclerosis: Otosclerosis is characterized by abnormal bone growth within the middle ear. It commonly affects the stapes but can also involve the incudomalleolar joint. The stiffening of the joint impairs the transmission of sound vibrations, leading to hearing loss.

Significance of Saddle Joint

The significance of the saddle joint lies in its function and the saddle joint movement it enables. Some key points about the significance of the saddle joint are:

  • Range of motion: The saddle joint allows for a wide range of movements due to its unique shape and structure. It permits flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, circumduction, and opposition. This extensive range of motion is particularly important for the thumb joint, as it enables the precision grip and fine motor skills necessary for various activities such as writing, grasping objects, and performing intricate tasks.
  • Stability: Despite its high degree of mobility, the saddle joint provides a certain level of stability. The articulating surfaces of the bones interlock and fit together securely, reducing the risk of dislocation during movements. Ligaments, tendons, and surrounding muscles also stabilize the joint.
  • Functional significance: The saddle joint of the thumb is essential for human dexterity and manipulation. The opposability of the thumb—the ability to touch the fingertips of the same hand—enables the precision grip, which is crucial for activities that require fine control, such as writing, typing, and tool use. This unique joint also plays a significant role in everyday tasks like gripping objects, holding utensils, and performing intricate hand movements.
  • Pathology and injury: Any disruption or injury to the saddle joint can result in functional limitations and difficulties in performing everyday fitness activities. Conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or traumatic injuries can affect the joint’s structure, leading to pain, stiffness, swelling, and reduced range of motion. Medical interventions such as physical therapy, medication, and sometimes surgery may be required to address these issues.

Final – Thoughts

These joints are not only found in humans but also various other mammals. For instance, horses possess saddle joints in their forelimbs, allowing them to move their legs uniquely, enabling swift running and powerful jumping.

Overall, saddle joints examples are crucial for our ability to perform complex movements and tasks. Their anatomical design and versatility make them essential components of the musculoskeletal system, enabling us to engage in various activities with precision, agility, and control.


Q: Do Saddle Joints allow rotation?

Yes, these joints do allow rotation. A saddle joint, also known as a sellar or saddle-shaped joint, is a synovial joint that allows movement in multiple directions. It is named after its shape, which resembles a saddle.

Q: How many Saddle Joints are in the body?

In the human body, there is only one saddle joint. It is called the carpometacarpal joint of the thumb. This joint is formed between the wrist’s trapezium bone and the thumb’s first metacarpal bone.

Q: How are saddle joints formed?

The formation of a saddle joint involves the specific shape and arrangement of the articulating surfaces of the two bones involved. One bone has a convex surface in one direction and a concave surface in the other direction. In contrast, the other has a corresponding convex surface in the opposite direction and a concave surface in the other direction. It creates a joint where the bones fit together like a rider in a saddle.

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William Woodall

Hi, My name is William Woodall, and I am a person who is determined to make the world a better place. I like to be around people and enjoy adventure and challenges.
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