4 The Skeletal System
The skeletal system performs the following critical functions for the human body:
- supports the body
- facilitates movement
- protects internal organs
- produces blood cells
- stores and releases minerals and fat
Support, Movement, and Protection
The most apparent functions of the skeletal system are the gross functions—those visible by observation. Simply by looking at a person, you can see how the bones support, facilitate movement, and protect the human body. Just as the steel beams of a building provide a scaffold to support its weight, the bones and cartilage of your skeletal system compose the scaffold that supports the rest of your body. Without the skeletal system, you would be a limp mass of organs, muscle, and skin.
Bones also facilitate movement by serving as points of attachment for your muscles. While some bones only serve as a support for the muscles, others also transmit the forces produced when your muscles contract. From a mechanical point of view, bones act as levers and joints serve as fulcrums.
Bones also protect internal organs from injury by covering or surrounding them. For example, your ribs protect your lungs and heart, the bones of your vertebral column (spine) protect your spinal cord, and the bones of your cranium (skull) protect your brain.
Mineral Storage, Energy Storage, and Hematopoiesis
On a metabolic level, bone tissue performs several critical functions. For one, the bone matrix acts as a reservoir for a number of minerals important to the functioning of the body, especially calcium, and phosphorus. These minerals, incorporated into bone tissue, can be released back into the bloodstream to maintain levels needed to support physiological processes. Calcium ions, for example, are essential for muscle contractions and controlling the flow of other ions involved in the transmission of nerve impulses.
Bone also serves as a site for fat storage and blood cell production. The softer connective tissue that fills the interior of most bone is referred to as bone marrow. There are two types of bone marrow: yellow marrow and red marrow. Yellow marrow contains adipose tissue; the triglycerides stored in the adipocytes of the tissue can serve as a source of energy. Red marrow is where hematopoiesis—the production of blood cells—takes place. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are all produced in the red marrow.
Classifications of Bone
|Long||Cylinder-like shape, longer than it is wide||Leverage||Femur, tibia, fibula, metatarsals, humerus, ulna, radius, metacarpals, phalanges|
|Short||Cube-like shape, approximately equal in length, width, and thickness||Provide stability and support while allowing some motion||Carpals, tarsals|
|Flat||Thin and curved||Points of attachment for muscles; protectors of internal organs||Sternum, ribs, scapulae, cranial bones|
|Irregular||Complex shape||Protect internal organs||Vertebrae, facial bones|
|Sesamoid||Small and round; embedded in tendons||Protect tendons from compressive forces||Patella|
Divisions of the Skeletal System
The skeleton is subdivided into two major divisions—the axial and appendicular.
The Axial Skeleton
The axial skeleton forms the vertical, central axis of the body and includes all bones of the head, neck, chest, and back. It serves to protect the brain, spinal cord, heart, and lungs. It also serves as the attachment site for muscles that move the head, neck, and back, and for muscles that act across the shoulder and hip joints to move their corresponding limbs.The axial skeleton of the adult consists of 80 bones, including the skull, the vertebral column, and the thoracic cage. The skull is formed by 22 bones. Also associated with the head are an additional seven bones, including the hyoid bone and the ear ossicles(three small bones found in each middle ear). The vertebral column consists of 24 bones, each called a vertebra, plus the sacrum and coccyx. The thoracic cage includes the 12 pairs of ribs, and the sternum, the flattened bone of the anterior chest.
The Appendicular Skeleton
The appendicular skeleton includes all bones of the upper and lower limbs, plus the bones that attach each limb to the axial skeleton. There are 126 bones in the appendicular skeleton of an adult.
Bones of the appendicular skeleton are divided into two groups: the bones that are located within the limbs themselves, and the girdle bones that attach the limbs to the axial skeleton. The bones of the shoulder region form the pectoral girdle, which anchors the upper limb to the thoracic cage of the axial skeleton. The lower limb is attached to the vertebral column by the pelvic girdle.
Because of our upright stance, different functional demands are placed upon the upper and lower limbs. Thus, the bones of the lower limbs are adapted for weight-bearing support and stability, as well as for body locomotion via walking or running. In contrast, our upper limbs are not required for these functions. Instead, our upper limbs are highly mobile and can be utilized for a wide variety of activities. The large range of upper limb movements, coupled with the ability to easily manipulate objects with our hands and opposable thumbs, has allowed humans to construct the modern world in which we live.