The musculoskeletal system incorporates bones, muscles, and connective tissue (your ligaments, tendons, and fascia). Collectively these body parts provide the framework for your body, create your movements, and dictate your degree of flexibility.They comprise approximately sixty percent of your body mass and expend most of your energy.
There are 206 bones in your skeleton. These are made of living cells embedded within a dense layer of protein and minerals. So even though a common perception of bones is that they are solid and hard, in fact they are relatively soft at the core. Bones move when muscles contract. Each muscle is attached by connective tissue to two or more bones and they tend to operate in groups or pairs. When an individual muscle contracts, a complementary, opposing muscle usually relaxes.
Perhaps the most important bones in your body are the vertebrae that form your spine. Your spine has a mechanical purpose: twisting, bending, and holding you erect. It also provides an avenue through the spinal cord for your brain to communicate with the rest of your body. The brain stem connects to the spinal cord, which contains nerve cells that control automatic functions such as heart rate, body temperature, and respiration. Nerves from every part of the body attach to the spinal cord at different locations.
Connective tissue is one of the most poorly understood and least researched aspects of the human body in contemporary medicine. For most intents and purposes, allopathic western doctors (MDs) ignore it. Osteopaths (DOs), on the other hand, have developed a sophisticated philosophy and procedures to correct functional problems by working closely on this aspect of the musculoskeletal system. There are three kinds of connective tissue, and to me, the last is the most interesting and mysterious:
Tendons: Tendons are tough cords that attach muscles to bones. They transmit tension from muscle to bone, thereby producing motion.
Ligaments: Ligaments are tough tissue that connects bones directly to other bones. They stabilize and support the joints by holding the bones in place.
Fascia: In Latin this word translates as “band,” which describes the appearance of these continuous sheets of soft tissue. The fascia is a thin, gelatinous membrane that surrounds and is fused with the bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, and organs throughout your body. Superficial fascia lies just beneath your skin. Deep fascia is slightly tougher and more compact. It supports, connects, and compartmentalizes the different body parts and is especially enmeshed within the muscular system.
The fascia enables the forces of the muscles to be transmitted safely and effectively without harming the other tissues. It helps muscles to change shape and length during movement and therefore ensures proper alignment. It runs throughout the whole body, is continuous, and connects different parts to one another. I believe it is also the medium for the energy meridians known to Chinese medicine.