Musculoskeletal System – Overview


The musculoskeletal system comprises a number of specialized connective tissues, including bone, cartilage, muscle, ligament and tendon, whose major functions are to provide rigid support for the body, protect organs and other tissues, and to generate and enable controlled movement. Most movement is created by muscular contractions which act upon bones that move (some slide) at joints. Variations in joint structure constrain the range and type of movement that can occur at each joint.

Keywords: tissues; joints and movement; support; other functions

Figure 1.

Stress–strain curve for cortical bone. Applied force, F1 per unit area, A1 generates stress, σ, which is plotted on the y axis. Stress generates strain, ε, which is plotted on the x axis as changes in length, Lá. per unit length, L. The tissue s stiffness, measured as Young s modulus of elasticity, is the slope of the stressstrain curve (y/x). For stresses below the yield point, Young's modulus remains constant; higher stresses can cause yield and/or failure.

Figure 2.

Muscle macrostructure and microstructure. (a) A simple strap muscle. (b) Muscle fibres. (c) Muscle fibril showing dark A bands, light I bands, and intermediate Z bands. (d) Schematic view of a sarcomere, comprising actin and myosin proteins.

Figure 3.

Typical synovial joint (human elbow) showing the articular cartilage, synovial membrane, joint space and synovial capsule.


Further Reading

Currey J (1986) The Mechanical Adaptations of Bone. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Glimcher MJ (1990) The nature of the mineral component in bone and the mechanism of calcification. In: Avioli LV and Krane SM (eds) Metabolic Bone Disease and Clinically Related Disorders, pp. 42–56. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Hall BK (ed.) (1983) Cartilage, vols 1–3. New York: Academic Press.

Martin RB, Burr DB and Schackler NA (1998) Skeletal Tissue Mechanics. New York: Springer.

McMahon TA (1984) Muscles, Reflexes and Locomotion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Turner CH and Burr DB (1993) Basic biomechanical measurements of bone: a tutorial. Bone 14: 595–608.

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Lieberman, Daniel E(Apr 2001) Musculoskeletal System – Overview. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001858]