In this article we give an overview of multiaxial joints, examples of multiaxial joints and explain their function. We also give some sporting and exercise examples of how this contribute to movement.
What is a multiaxial joint?
A multiaxial joint is a type of joint that allows movement around three axis, allowing movement across all three planes of motion. In the human body these ranges of movement are: i) flexion/extension, ii) abduction/adduction and iii) rotation (commonly internal/external).
What are examples of multiaxial joints?
Examples of multiaxial joints in the body include the hips, shoulders and joints between the carpal bones in the wrist (intercarpal joints). Multiaxial joints connect both our arms and legs to our torso offering us a wide range of motion, and allowing for complex patterns of movement.
What types of joints are multiaxial joints?
The most common types of joints found in the human body are synovial joints. These are made up of six joint shapes: hinge, pivot, ball & socket, ellipsoid, saddle and plane joints. The following are classified as multiaxial joints:
- Ball & socket joints
- Plane joints
If you find a joint classified as one of the above, it will always have three ranges of motion and therefore be a multiaxial joint.
Sporting actions using multiaxial joints
Sporting actions that use multiaxial joints are those that require actions from the joints described above. Examples include flexion/extension from your hip during a sprinting action or the shoulder horizontal extension used when holding off a defender in American Football or Soccer. Any sport requiring movement from your shoulders or hips will be a sporting action requiring movement from a multiaxial joint.
Related terms to multiaxial joints
In more medical texts you may also come across multiaxial joints referred to as multiaxial articulations. Articulations are points where two or more bones meet, not all articulations provide movement, such as the various bones that make up the skull.
Joints that provide only one axis of movement are known as uniaxial joints. Joints that offer two axis of movement are known as biaxial joints. Click the links below to read related articles on each topic:
You should now know that multiaxial joints allow movement around all three axis, you should also know where they can be found in the human body and be able to give sporting examples of their use.
As a sport scientist or coach learning about basic anatomy can feel distant from what you wish to do in practice. However, having a detailed understanding of joints, how they work and the actions they allow for allows for a far greater analysis of sporting actions, allow you to better detect where errant technique may come from and what coaching command may help an athlete improve their movement.
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Will is a sport scientist and golf professional who specialises in motor control and motor learning. Will lecturers part-time in motor control and biomechanics, runs Golf Insider UK and consults elite athletes who are interested in optimising their training and performance.