Understanding Your Musculoskeletal System

Understanding Your Musculoskeletal System

We often take our bodies for granted until an ache, pain, injury, or advancing age starts to slow us down. That’s because the complexity that gives our musculoskeletal system the ability to support our bodies and move also leaves it vulnerable to injury, disease, and aging. But why?

As an expert in orthopaedic trauma care, Dr. Eric E. Johnson specializes in conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system, from fractures and joint replacement to orthopaedic and poly traumas.

In this blog, Dr. Johnson offers insight into how the musculoskeletal system works.

Bones: Creating a solid framework

You’ve likely seen photos, drawings, or reproductions of a human skeleton at some point. This part of your musculoskeletal system contains your bones, and adults have 206 of them of numerous shapes and sizes. 

It’s easy to assume a bone is a hard, solid structure. However, they actually have a hard exterior shell with spongy tissue at their center. They also play an important role in your musculoskeletal system that goes beyond giving you the human shape you likely associate with them, including:

Bones also work closely with your connective tissues, ligaments, tendons, and muscles to give your body movement. Another part of the musculoskeletal system that helps make this happen is cartilage.

Cartilage is a specific type of connective tissue found wherever bones come together, forming joints. Just like you have bones of different shapes and sizes, the same is true for joints. Some are large, like your hip or shoulder, and others are small, like those connecting the vertebra of your spine.

Regardless of the size or range of motion a joint may have, they need cartilage inside them to provide a firm, rubbery layer of protection to reduce friction. You also have cartilage in parts of your musculoskeletal system without joints, like your ears and nose.

Muscles, tendons, and ligaments: Making movement

Your skeleton, joints, and cartilage may give your body structure, posture, and support your weight, but they need muscles and other soft tissue to move.

Adults have more than 600 muscles in their bodies. Each one contains thousands of individual stretchy fibers, which gives you the ability to perform a wide range of physical functions, from walking, running, and dancing to speaking, swallowing, and signing your name. Your nervous system controls these movements, sending messages to specific muscles when they should tense up or relax.

Finally, your musculoskeletal system contains tendons and ligaments that hold it all together. These tough connective tissues perform similar but different jobs. 


Tendons work to connect muscles to your bones. So, each time your nervous system tells a muscle to activate, the muscle pulls a tendon. In turn, the tendon pulls the bone to which it’s attached, making it move. 


Unlike tendons, ligaments connect bones to bones and bones to cartilage. It also surrounds joints to provide strength and stability. 

Why musculoskeletal injuries happen

Having a better understanding of the musculoskeletal system can help raise awareness about why so many disorders can occur. In fact, hundreds of conditions can impact the musculoskeletal condition, affecting everything from the way you move and speak to how you interact with the world.

One of the most common issues that arises with the musculoskeletal system involves pain. This can occur for numerous reasons, such as:

Injuries are also a leading cause of musculoskeletal problems leading to pain. And, contrary to popular belief, they can occur because of overuse, repetitive stress, or accidents and trauma.

Because of the complex nature of the musculoskeletal system, it’s essential to work with an experienced orthopaedist like Dr. Johnson if you have an injury or pain condition. Their advanced training and skills can ensure you receive the diagnosis and treatment you need to provide optimal results and healing.

Do you have a musculoskeletal condition? Contact our office in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles to schedule a visit with Eric E. Johnson, MD, by calling 310-206-1169 today.

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