Our skeletal system forms the framework for the muscles, and protects and preserves the shape of the soft tissues in the body. It is made up of bones and cartilage that control and direct the internal pressure, and provide stability anchoring points in the body. The axial skeleton of an adult, with a total of 80 bones, consists of the vertebral column, the rib cage, and the skull, while the appendicular skeleton, with a total of 126 bones, consists of the pectoral girdles, the upper limbs, the pelvic girdle, and the lower limbs. The skeletal system not only protects different vital organs in the body, like brain, spinal cord, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, etc., but also serves as a reservoir of minerals, like calcium and phosphorous, which are distributed to various body parts through blood. It helps us to maintain our upright structure and to perform various activities like lifting, sitting, walking, running, etc.
Aging, deficiency of vitamins and minerals, poor eating habits, a prior accident or injury, etc., make the bones weak and fragile, and increase the chances of injuries or disorders of the skeletal system. Skeletal system injuries are quite painful. They can lead to restricted movement of the affected part, and can make us incapable of performing simple routine tasks.
Diseases and Disorders of the Skeletal System
Of the many skeletal system injuries, fracture is the most common, which occurs due to breakage of a bone. The breakage can be complete or partial, depending upon the intensity or severity of the impact, and other pathological factors. Severe pressure put on the ligaments and bones can lead to dislocation of a joint.
It's a disorder that causes pain in the body's joints, especially shoulder and hip joints, due to excessive activity of an arm or leg. Bursitis primarily occurs due to inflammation of a bursa, a small fluid-filled bag, which cushions and protects the bones, tendons, and muscles in a joint from an impact.
Sprain is a severe painful injury to a ligament or tissue that covers a joint. It is one of the most common types of injuries of the skeletal system, that occurs due to a sudden wrench that stretches or tears the tissues of the ligaments, causing swelling in the affected area. Excessive pressure on a joint can lead to sprains and ligament tearing.
It's a neural tube defect present at the time of childbirth. During pregnancy, a portion of the neural tube does not develop or fails to close properly. As a result of this, the baby is born with defects in the spinal cord and in other bones of the spine. Spina bifida results from an error in the development of the embryo. It is believed that a family history of neural tube defects, folic acid deficiency, alcohol abuse, excessive use of medicines, or over exposure to extreme heat during first trimester can lead to spina bifida..
Of the many skeletal system disorders, osteoporosis is the most common disorder. It occurs due to loss of bone tissue. Hormonal imbalance in postmenopausal women, genetic disposition, vitamin D deficiency, calcium deficiency, bone cancer, or bone metastases, etc., can lead to osteoporosis. It's commonly observed in elderly people, especially in women. Reduction in calcium and phosphorous deposition in bones affects bone density, and leads to osteoporosis.
An open fracture or a surgery can result in infection in a bone. Infection of bone marrow can occur due to Staphylococcus aureus, a specific strain of staph bacteria. The blood may carry and spread these bacteria from one part of the body to other distant parts. Although rare, osteomyelitis is a serious condition. It is characterized by swelling around the infected bone, restricted movement, intense pain, fever, chills, nausea, and weakness.
Arthritis is a common joint disorder caused due to inflammation of one or more joints. It's characterized by pain, swelling, stiffness, and tenderness in the affected joint. Aging, injury, infection, uric acid deposition, or underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus, mineral deficiency, and hereditary factors, etc., are some common causes of arthritis. It is primarily observed in old people as the cartilage covering the joints (to protect the bones from getting damaged or ruptured due to friction) breaks down. There are over 100 different forms of arthritis.
It's a degenerative joint disease caused due to breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage of one or more joints. Osteoarthritis usually occurs in synovial joints where the articular cartilage wears away, increasing friction, pain, and stiffness in the joints during normal movement.
It's a chronic, systematic inflammatory autoimmune disorder of the synovial lining of joints. The body's own immune system attacks and damages body tissues. The joints are swollen, give rise to pain, and are usually affected symmetrically. As rheumatoid arthritis progresses, the ligaments supporting the joints get ruptured, causing erosion of the bone, and long term deformity of the joints. It often affects joints in the fingers, wrists, knees, and elbows.
It's a skeletal system disorder which leads to an abnormally curved ('s' or 'c' shape) spine. In most cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown (idiopathic). It can be present at birth, or may become evident during adolescence. It usually affects girls more than boys.
Rickets is a skeletal system disorder that causes bowed legs in children due to deficiency of vitamin D and calcium. The nutritional deficiency results in weak and softened bones, weak muscles, delayed growth, pain, etc.
Also called hunchback, it's a forward bending of the spine due to deformation of the bones in the upper part of the spine leading to a slouching posture. It's a spinal deformity caused due to degenerative diseases like tuberculosis, osteoporosis, syphilis, degeneration of discs, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Various types of cancers can damage bones and the skeletal system. Bone cancer, metastasis of cancer into bones, leukemia (blood cancer that originates in the blood marrow), etc., can weaken the bones and other tissues.
Talipes equinovarus (commonly known as club foot, a congenital deformity that involves one foot or both, the foot turns inward at the ankle), tendonitis, poliomyelitis, Paget's disease (the bones break down faster than they are rebuilt), etc., are some other types of injuries or disorders of the skeletal system. As our skeletal system performs myriads of functions, it's essential to keep it strong and in good shape by following a balanced diet enriched with vitamins and minerals, and including weight bearing, low impact activities in our daily exercise routine.