Orthopedics 101: what makes up our musculoskeletal system? In order for our body to move, the joints, ligaments, and tendons must work together. If a person has a disease, injury, or condition, affecting any one of these parts, nerve signals are interrupted and movement is hindered.

By Megan Johnson McCullough

When you think of joints, think of two parts of the skeleton being fit together. The bones are connected by joints. Joints are also called articulations. Here’s the lineup….

  1. Bones are lined with cartilage so they don’t grind against each other; it is the covering at the end of the bone
  2. Bones are joined to bones by ligaments, so where 2 bones meet that is a joint; ligaments are important for stability
  3. Muscles are connected to bones by tendons
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Technically, muscles are not part of the joint, but stronger muscles help protect the joints.

You know that cracking sound we sometimes hear with movement? When you flex or contract a muscle which takes place at the joint, the ligament stretches with that joint. When you straighten out that joint, the ligament helps to pull the joint back to its normal starting position. This means that ligaments are a major part of movement, but over time, they start to lose their elasticity. This loss of stretch makes the joint have that cracking noise from bone on bone.

Tendons are important for our range of motion with movement. They’re found in smaller joints like fingers and wrists. We use tendons a lot, especially at the wrist. A tendon’s job is to make sure you can bend your wrist, but not too far.

After years of constant use, our joints can develop arthritis. This especially occurs in the knee, hip, and shoulder areas. The knee joint has 3 parts, the hip has 2, and the shoulder has that one that seems to be commonly injured.

Tendons and ligaments do wear out. They do not grow or repair themselves. A baseball pitcher has repetitively used their arm and shoulder to throw the ball as hard as they can over and over again. After a number of years, the rotator cuff is done. Then it’s surgery.

Long story short, our body sure does do a lot for us to produce movement. As I type and while you read, movement is occurring even in the eyes. We have to appreciate what we have and if we don’t use it, we lose it before that expiration date comes our way. Your fitness journey is a lifelong commitment to your health, so exercise wisely, fuel your body right, and MOVE!

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