What are the Functions of the Skeletal System?

The skeletal system of the human body is a vastly underrated structure. Without it, we would be unable to stand, move or live. But what exactly are the functions of the skeleton? In this first aid blog post, we’re going to have a look at the major functions of the skeletal system as well as some commonly asked questions relating to bones.

The skeletal system has five major functions

  1. Provides us with a basic structure/shape
  2. Allows movement
  3. Protects vital organs
  4. Produces blood cells
  5. Storage of fats and minerals

Bone marrow located in some bones of the adult skeleton (the pelvis, spine, breast bone etc.) is a soft jelly-like substance that produces stem cells. Stem cells mature into both red blood cells, white cells, and platelets as well as cartilage, fat, and bone. The bone marrow makes around 200 billion new red cells every day!

Bone marrow transplants are often performed as a life-saving measure for patients with leukemia where cancer has led to abnormal blood cells being produced by the bone marrow.

What is bone made of?

The bone itself is made up of a series of layers of tissue. These layers contain a mixture of substances such as collagen (a protein), calcium and bone marrow in order to facilitate strength, productivity (bone production) and to aid blood vessels to nourish the bone.

Are there different types of bone?

There are 5 different groups of bone, each is molded into a slightly different shape for their role in the skeleton. Long bones as their name suggests are longer than they are wide. Bones in this group include the clavicle, phalanges and femur. They are mainly responsible for withstanding load/stress and are vital for movement.

Short bones such as the carpals are as wide as they are long and help to provide support and stability to joints and as such, there is little movement of these bones.

Flat bones provide protection to vital structures. The most obvious example of this is the bones of the skull.

Sesamoid bones are bones that are located within a tendon or muscle. These are often very small the largest being the patella. They act as a pulley, assisting with transmission of load/force through a tendon or muscle.

Lastly, there is a category for those which don’t fit into the ones above! The irregular bones have various roles and seemingly are specifically adapted to their unique position in the skeleton. The vertebrae for load, the sphenoid bone in the skull for the safe protection of key vascular and nervous structures into and out of the skull, as well as protecting the brain itself.

An overview of the adult skeletal system

Do bones have a blood supply?

Yes – particularly those with marrow require a rich vascular network in order to secrete blood products around the body as well as sufficient nutrients itself to keep working.

An important example of the blood supply to the bone is in patients with wrist fractures. They are carefully examined in the Emergency Room and precautions are taken if a fracture of the scaphoid bone is suspected. The scaphoid bone has a poor blood supply and if disrupted in a fracture, could cause necrosis (withering) of the bone, leading to pain and instability of the joint.

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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