Complementary Therapists > Pain > Musculoskeletal System
Our muscles and bones in the human body comprise the musculoskeletal system. It is what gives us our shape, it supports us and allows us to perform routine mechanical tasks such as walking, talking, and sitting. It is is prone to overuse, injury, and inflammation and is therefore a regular source of pain.
The Human Skeleton
The human skeleton is made up of a total of 206 bones that divided into two main groups; the axial skeleton and the appendicular skeleton. The axial is the upright skeleton and includes the bones of the chest, which consist of the spine, the sternum and the rib cage.
The appendicular skeleton is made up of all the other bones that are attached to the axial skeleton. This is mainly the arms, the legs and the skull. The skull is made up of eight different bones. After tooth enamel our bones are the hardest material in the body.
Bones are made up of layers of different density with the hardest on the outside. Mineral salts, mainly calcium and magnesium, comprise approximately 66 per cent of bone weight.
Some major bones such as the ribs, breastbone and skull, protect vital internal organs and also contain bone marrow where red and white blood cells are largely made.
Muscular tissue is of three varieties
1) skeletal muscle which adheres to the bones of the skeleton and makes it move
2) smooth muscle which is largely found in the circulatory and digestive systems and is governed by the autonomic nervous system, and
3) the heart, or cardiac, muscle.
There are 650 skeletal muscles in our body and they work mainly in pairs. They move bones by alternately contracting and lengthening. An example is when you raise and lower your arms - the muscles of your upper arm i.e. the biceps and triceps, contract and expand to generate the movement.
Skeletal muscles along with the tendons that connect them to the bones are prone to being strained from overuse, to cramps and to inflammation. Smooth muscles compose the wall of the stomach and the gut. These are prone to hernias when poor muscle tone is taken unawares by sudden actions.
Clearly cardiac muscle is vitally important and has several unique characteristics to aid its functioning. Strain on the cardiac muscle is felt as chest pain but also as pain in the arms.
Joints and Pain
Unless they are broken or diseased, musculoskeletal pain is rarely caused by bones. Pain is generally caused by muscles and their connecting tissues i.e. tendons and ligaments, and, more especially by joints.
Hardworking and load-bearing joints such as those of the neck, back, hips, arms, legs and feet, are most prone to pain. The knee, which is the most complex joint in the body, is the most common cause of trouble. Joints are usually classified as synovial (free moving); cartilaginous, (with limited movement); and fibrous (with no movement).
The area between synovial joints is cushioned by a substance known as cartilage. It covers the ends of the bones and is a smooth surface that acts as a shock absorber for the joints. The cartilage is housed in a capsule that is lined by the synovial membrane. This generates a lubricant that is known as synovial fluid. Inflammation of the synovial membrane is the most frequent cause of joint pain, and can lead to damage of all the vital component parts of our joints. For example this is what happens in the case of rheumatoid arthritis.
In the average male, muscles comprise almost half the total body weight. In women it is just over a 33 per cent of the total body weight. Usually the larger muscle are the most powerful.
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