The Immobilization of Joints

  • Franz U. Steinberg
Part of the Topics in Bone and Mineral Disorders book series (TBMD)


The joint is an organ of motion; its structural and functional integrity is predicated on motility. The deleterious effects of immobility are based on the structure and biomechanics of joints. The deep layers of the cartilage are nourished by the blood vessels of the subchondral bone, but the superficial layers are dependent on the synovial fluid for their nutrition. The synovial fluid is viscous and has a high surface tension, which makes it cling to the cartilage. Joint motion makes for a constant interchange of fluid between the surface layers of the articular cartilage and the synovial fluid. When the joint is immobile the flow of the synovial fluid ceases, and the diffusion of fluid in and out of the cartilage stops. Joint motion causes alternating cartilage compression and distention. Absence of these pressure fluctuations causes a stagnation of the intercellular fluid of the cartilage and decreases its nutrition. After some period of time degenerative changes become permanent.


Synovial Fluid Subchondral Bone Joint Motion Joint Surface Joint Cavity 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Franz U. Steinberg
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Washington University School of MedicineUSA
  2. 2.The Jewish Hospital of St. LouisUSA

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