We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What is a Gliding Joint?

By Caitlin Kenney
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

The gliding joint, also called a plane joint or arthrodial joint, is a type of joint in which the articulating surfaces of the involved bones are flat or only slightly curved. Joints are important structures in the body that connect bones and allow movement and shock absorption. The ends of the bones that connect in the joint are called articulating surfaces. The unique, flat shape of the articulating surfaces in a gliding joint let the bones slide over one another, often allowing a large range of motion. These joints are present in the spine, wrist, foot, and the clavicle.

The shape of the articular surfaces in a joint help determine how the joint will work. Ball and socket joints are shaped as their name would suggest, and they move rotationally. The shape of hinge joints allows them to move in one direction, like a hardware hinge. For the same reason a flat rock travels more easily over a flat surface than an uneven rock slides over an uneven surface, the shape of a gliding joint is ideal for gliding motions.

Even with flat surfaces, however, the bones in gliding joints cannot move smoothly without lubrication. As a synovial joint, the gliding joint uses synovial fluid and articular cartilage to lubricate and pad the movement of bones. Synovial fluid has the consistency of egg whites and is secreted from a nearby sac called the synovial membrane. Another structure called the bursa also secretes a small amount of fluid to keep the cartilage moist. Articular cartilage is a type of hyaline cartilage that surrounds the articular surfaces of the bones, protecting them from rubbing and wearing down.

When working properly, a gliding joint should be able to achieve an optimal range of motion without causing pain. A trauma, disease, or disorder, however, can cause aching or tenderness in the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are two of the most common culprits in joint pain. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, or a disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue, that predominantly targets the joints in the hands and feet, where the gliding joints are. This disease is degenerative and incurable, though there are many treatment options. Osteoarthritis is the result of wear on the joint over a long period of time and also has no cure.

Chronic strain on the joint can also contribute to injuries or a disorder such as bursitis, a swelling of the bursa. A fracture of the bones due to an injury can impair the cartilage, change the orientation of the bones, or put pressure on nerves. Treatments may include operations, a brace, and resting the affected gliding joint. Likewise, defects in the shape of the bones can also cause friction and the pinching of nerves.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon339348 — On Jun 22, 2013

Fibromyalgia is not a condition of joints -- the joints are not in any sense affected. It is a condition of widespread pain of unknown origin.

By mitchell14 — On Feb 24, 2011

This explains why things like bursitis and arthritis cause so many movement problems for people. However, I also wonder if this in some way relates to things like fibromyalgia, which also have to do with joints, though in a different way. I know a lot of research still needs to be done, but I wonder if they have or will find a connection between gliding joints and synovial joints and fibromyalgia.

By watson42 — On Feb 22, 2011

I always wondered how our bones all moved around in our bodies without constantly cracking together, especially when I was a little kid. Even when I learned about cartilage I was still confused, but this explains some of that to me.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.