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Am J Anat. 1988 May;182(1):16-32.

Mechanoreceptors in articular tissues.

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Department of Anatomy, Louisiana State University Medical Center, New Orleans 70112-1393.


The morphology, distribution, and function of mechanoreceptors in joint capsules, ligaments, knee-joint menisci, and articular disks of the temporomandibular joints of animals, including humans, have been reviewed. In addition to free nerve endings, three types of joint receptors are present in most animal joints: 1) a Ruffini-like receptor situated in the capsule, 2) a Golgi tendon organ situated in a ligament; and 3) the encapsulated Pacinian-like corpuscle. In the anterior cruciate ligament, nerve fibers enter from the subsynovial connective tissue and terminate in receptors. Most of the receptors are found in the distal portion of the ligament. In the meniscus, nerves penetrate the outer and middle one-third of the body and the horns from the perimeniscal tissue, with a greater concentration at the horns. In the temporomandibular articular disk, the mechanoreceptor density is greatest at the periphery and progressively decreases toward the center. If a joint has an intra-articular structure, mechanoreceptors undoubtedly are present within it. The concentration of mechanoreceptors appears greater in areas related to the extremes of movement and probably represents the first line of defense in sensing these extremes. These afferent discharges elicit support from discharging mechanoreceptors located in the joint capsule and subsequently from those in the surrounding muscles. This total afferent output alerts the central nervous system of impending injury, which can then be averted through reflex mechanisms.

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