Joints of the Ribs
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of the thoracic wall | Main Anatomy
Index | Joints of the sternum
Last updated 30 March 2006
- A typical rib articulates with the vertebral column at
two joints: (1) the joints of the heads of the ribs and
(2) the costotransverse joints.
- Typically, the head of a rib articulates with the sides
of the bodies of two thoracic vertebrae, and the tubercle
articulates with the tip of a transverse process.
- The costovertebral joints are the plane
type of synovial joint that allows for gliding
or sliding motions.
Joints of the Head of the Ribs (p. 39)
- The head of each typical rib articulates with the
demifacets of two adjacent vertebrae and the
intervertebral disc between them.
- The head articulates with the superior part of the
corresponding vertebra, the inferior part of the vertebra
superior to it, and the adjacent intervertebral disc.
- The crest of the head is
attached to the intervertebral disc by an intraarticular ligament. It is
located within the joint and divides it into two synovial
- There are exceptions to this general arrangement. The 1st,
sometimes the 10th, and usually the 11th
and 12th ribs are connected only to their own
vertebral bodies. In these cases, there are no
intraarticular ligaments and the joint cavities are not
- An articular capsule
surrounds each joint and connects the head of the rib
with the circumference of the joint cavity.
- The capsule is strongest anteriorly where a radiate ligament fans out from
the anterior margin of the head of the rib to the sides
of the bodies of two vertebrae and the intervertebral
disc between them.
- The heads of the ribs are connected so closely to the
vertebral bodies that only slight gliding movements occur
at the joints of the heads of the ribs.
Costotransverse Joints (pp. 39-40)
- The tubercle of a typical rib articulates with the facets
on the tip of the transverse process of its own vertebra
to form a synovial joint.
- These small joints are surrounded by thin articular
capsules, which are attached to the edges of the
- A lateral costotransverse ligament,
passing from the tubercle of the rib to the tip of the
transverse process, strengthens the joint at each side.
- In addition, a costotransverse ligament unties the
posterior surface of the neck of the rib to the anterior
surface of the transverse process.
- A superior costotransverse ligament
joins the crest of the neck to the transverse process
superior to it.
- The aperture between this ligament and the vertebral
column permits passage of the spinal nerve and the dorsal
branch of the intercostal artery.
- The 11th and 12th ribs do not
articulate with transverse processes and have freer
movements as a result.
- The strong costotransverse ligaments binding these joints
limit their movements to slight gliding. However, the
tubercles of the superior six ribs are convex and fit
into concavities on the transverse processes.
- As a result, some superior and inferior movements of the
tubercles are associated with rotation of the ribs.
Sternocostal Joints (p. 40)
- The 1st to 7th ribs articulate via
their costal cartilages with the lateral borders of the
sternum. The first pair of costal cartilages articulates
with the sternum at primary
cartilaginous joints (synchondroses).
- The costal cartilages are united directly to the hyaline
cartilage in the depressions located art the
superolateral margins of the manubrium of the sternum.
- The 2nd to 7th pairs of costal
cartilages articulates with the sternum at synovial joints, but joint
cavities are often absent in the inferior ones.
- The thin, weak articular capsules of these joints are
strengthened anteriorly and posteriorly by radiate sternocostal ligaments.
- These thin, broad membranous bands pass from the costal
cartilages to the anterior and posterior surfaces of the
sternum, forming a felt-like covering for the sternum.
Costochondral Joints (p. 41)
- Each rib has a cup-shaped depression on its anterior end
into which its costal cartilage fits.
- The rib and its costal cartilage are firmly bound
together by the continuity of the periosteum of the rib
with the perichondrium of the costal cartilages.
- No movement normally occurs at these joints.
Interchondral Joints (p. 41)
- The articulations between the adjacent borders of the 6th
and 7th, 7th and 8th, 8th
and 9th costal cartilages are plane synovial joints.
- Each of these articulations is enclosed within an
articular capsule that is lined with a synovial membrane.
- Interchondral ligaments strengthen the joints.
- The articulation between the 9th and 10th
costal cartilages is a fibrous joint.