Muscular System - Muscle Disorders, Care, Management and Prevention

The Muscular System

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 20 Mar 2013 - 19:26


The muscular system is defined as an organ-system as it is made up of more than two organs which together enable the function of movement, regulation of posture and the circulation of blood.

This system ramifies the whole body, and is broadly classified into three types: the skeletal muscles which enables movement, strength, and balance; the cardiac muscles in the heart, that enables blood flow and the movement of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, and finally smooth or involuntary muscles which line organs such as the lungs and intestines.

The illustration below (pic1) gives an overview of the muscles found in the human body (frontal view).The peculiarity of the muscular system is that some muscles, especially the skeletal muscles can be moved by conscious thought, eg. when deciding to walk or trying to reach out for something. The other muscle types such as the smooth muscles cannot be controlled consciously and are controlled by the autonomous nervous system.

The muscular system works by contraction and relaxation of the different thread like filaments that together make up the muscular mass. The system consumes a lot of energy, which become quite apparent after a tedious job, work or play. The energy is usually produced from food sources in the cells and is in the form of ATP (or Adenosine Triphosphate) which acts as a sort of biochemical fuel for muscle functions.

ATP is usually produced by  aerobic process within the cells during rest. However, during activity, this aerobic process is augmented by an anaerobic process to increase fuel production.

Functions of the Muscular System :
As the muscular system encompasses large part of the human anatomy, its features may be as diverse.

Movement (Skeletal Muscles) : The primary function of skeletal muscles are to facilitate movement. Movement is one of the most primitive characteristics of human life. Movements such as chewing and blinking of eyelids can also fall under the movement category, and is just as important.

Maintenance of posture and stability: Muscles aid in maintaining posture, thats what enables us to stay upright. Bones are basically levers, which are supported by muscles, enabling movement of fluids that give  stability. Without muscles, humab body would be just a bag of bones.

Regulation of body temperature: Muscle cell helps in regulating body temperature. Within the muscle cells, structures known as mitochondria are responsible for producing energy. These structures act like a furnace. generating heat as a byproduct after digestion. This process helps to keep temperature at homeostatic levels.

Digestive processes: the process of digestion actually begins in the mouth. Lining our esophagus are muscles which involuntarily help to shuttle food down to the stomach. Food is passed to the stomach by a process known as peristalsis which helps to make the food more pliable for digestion in the stomach. The smooth muscles of the digestive tract, apart from this function, produce enzymes, which aid in the digestion of food. 

Circulation: Though the process of blood circulation is collectively undertaken by all 3 muscle types, the cardiac and smooth muscles are very active in this function. The cardiac muscles are found in the heart. With the action of the pacemaker, the heart beats continuously all through life to ensure blood is pumped to all parts of the body. The smooth muscle cells line the blood vessels, and involuntarily contract and expand in response to changes in blood pressure and other variables. Skeletal muscles play a small role in helping blood circulate back to the heart from the lower extremities, with activities like walking. The powerful calf muscles contract and push blood upwards, back to systemic circulation.

Disorders and diseases of the Muscular System:

There are many disorders and diseases that can affect the muscular system.
The classification of these disorders is usually based on their origin and are classified as:

  • Infectious: Infectious muscle diseases are those that are caused by invasive bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites that infect the muscles and destroys them. 
  • Hormonal:These include disorders that are caused by a lack or an excess of particular hormones in the body.
  • Genetic: Muscular diseases are those that are caused by inheritance of genes that make their offspring subject to particular flaws.
  • Auto immune:These muscle diseases are those that are usually caused by the immune systems itself, where the muscles become the target of its own immune system.
  • However it must also be noted that apart from the different muscle diseases, physical injuries can also cause muscle disorders like accidents or sports. It is also common to find that inactivity can also cause muscle diseases. This has especially been identified in obese people and those with a predominantly sedentary lifestyle.

Care, management and prevention of muscular diseases:

The care and management of muscular diseases is usually based on the type of the muscular disease involved. In the case of infectious muscular diseases, antibiotics and antibacterial drugs are usually administered. However in the case of autoimmune muscular disease, immuno - suppressive therapy can be used to suppress the immune system from destroying the muscle tissues. In the case of physical injuries, physical therapy is widely used to bring healing and regain muscular function.

While not much can be done to prevent the onset of inherited muscular diseases, it must be noted that a great number of the population suffer from muscular diseases that can be prevented by personal initiative and by being proactive.

Sprains and strains are some of the most common problems that occur with the muscular system. This can usually be prevented by regular strength training. Doing moderate to high level strength training, balancing exercises and aerobics up to about three times a week have been proven to be beneficial in giving muscles the strength, and in eliminating waste material from the system.

Taking a brisk work for about thirty minutes has been shown to be as beneficial. Other aspects that should be considered is keeping a healthy weight so as not to put too much strain on your muscles, is wearing comfortable shoes, which help prevent muscle disorders.

Muscle cramps can be destructive to muscle tissues in extreme cases, and it is usually due to an increase in the concentration of waste products in the muscles, which may occur after a period of sustained muscle activity, as in long training sessions, sporting activities, or in physical labor. Avoiding muscle overuse by taking regular breaks, drinking water regularly encourages the removal of wastes from the muscle tissues.

A common muscle problem that occurs from repetitive actions, known as tendinitis, common with people who use the keyboard constantly in gaming and other activities that are repetitive. Taking frequent breaks from repetitive actions from time to time, and stretching exercises promote muscle recovery. Strength training is also recommended to make the muscle stronger.