An articulation, or joint, is a point of contact between bones, between a bone and cartilage, or between a bone and a tooth. Synovial joints are the most common type of articulation and feature a small gap between the bones. This gap allows a free range of motion and space for synovial fluid to lubricate the joint. Fibrous joints exist where bones are very tightly joined and offer little to no movement between the bones. Fibrous joints also hold teeth in their bony sockets. Finally, cartilaginous joints are formed where bone meets cartilage or where there is a layer of cartilage between two bones. These joints provide a small amount of flexibility in the joint due to the gel-like consistency of cartilage.
Skeletal System Physiology
Support and Protection
The skeletal system’s primary function is to form a solid framework that supports and protects the body's organs and anchors the skeletal muscles. The bones of the axial skeleton act as a hard shell to protect the internal organs—such as the brain and the heart—from damage caused by external forces. The bones of the appendicular skeleton provide support and flexibility at the joints and anchor the muscles that move the limbs.
The bones of the skeletal system act as attachment points for the skeletal muscles of the body. Almost every skeletal muscle works by pulling two or more bones either closer together or further apart. Joints act as pivot points for the movement of the bones. The regions of each bone where muscles attach to the bone grow larger and stronger to support the additional force of the muscle. In addition, the overall mass and thickness of a bone increase when it is under a lot of stress from lifting weights or supporting body weight.
Red bone marrow produces red and white blood cells in a process known as hematopoiesis. Red bone marrow is found in the hollow space inside of bones known as the medullary cavity. Children tend to have more red bone marrow compared to their body size than adults do, due to their body’s constant growth and development. The amount of red bone marrow drops off at the end of puberty, replaced by yellow bone marrow.
The skeletal system stores many different types of essential substances to facilitate growth and repair of the body. The skeletal system’s cell matrix acts as our calcium bank by storing and releasing calcium ions into the blood as needed. Proper levels of calcium ions in the blood are essential to the proper function of the nervous and muscular systems. Bone cells also release osteocalcin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar and fat deposition. The yellow bone marrow inside of our hollow long bones is used to store energy in the form of lipids. Finally, red bone marrow stores some iron in the form of the molecule ferritin and uses this iron to form hemoglobin in red blood cells.
Growth and Development
The skeleton begins to form early in fetal development as a flexible skeleton made of hyaline cartilage and dense irregular fibrous connective tissue. These tissues act as a soft, growing framework and placeholder for the bony skeleton that will replace them. As development progresses, blood vessels begin to grow into the…