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Framing Within Our Bodies

While some may think of movement as something that is coordinated between the brain and the bones, it requires an entire supporting cast of soft tissue. For the body to be able to move, tendons, muscles and ligaments all must snap into action at once. “Basically, muscles, tendons and ligaments work together to provide movement and stability in the skeletal system,” said Blair Tompkins, a physical and occupational therapist at Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center.

Ligaments

Ligaments are made of fibrous collagen tissue that connects bones together at the joint to stabilize the joint, support the bones and prevent the bones from grinding into each other. Ligaments have a limited amount of stretching ability, which protects joints from injury.

The human body has approximately 900 ligaments.

Tendons

Tendons also are made of fibrous collagen tissue. Their job is to be the force between muscle and bone. Each muscle has a tendon attached to the end of it, which then connects to a bone. “When the muscle contracts, the tendon pulls the bone into action,” Tompkins said.

Tendons are not designed to stretch very much, in order to protect the muscle.

There are approximately 4,000 tendons in the human body, but the exact count depends on a person’s size and muscle mass.

Muscles

Muscles are made of bundles of elastic, fibrous tissue that provide force, strength and motion to the body. Unlike the tissues that comprise ligaments and tendons, muscle tissue is built to stretch significantly.

There are more than 600 skeletal muscles in the body. Like tendons, skeletal muscles can be strained when muscle fibers tear. This is referred to as a pulled muscle. Such an injury usually is not serious and can be healed at home.

Between one quarter and one half of a person’s body weight is made up of muscle.

If all your muscles pulled together in one direction, they could lift 25 tons.

There are three types of muscles:

Skeletal muscles:

Control voluntary movement, such as walking or running, and always are connected to bone
Examples: Muscles in arms, legs, abdomen, back

Smooth muscles:

Move involuntarily and control internal functions, such as breathing and digestion
Examples: Blood vessels, bladder, gastrointestinal tract

Cardiac muscles:

Muscles in your heart that are controlled involuntarily

What is the difference between sprains and strains?

The main difference has to do with location. Muscles and tendons can be strained, whereas ligaments can be sprained.

Sprains:

These usually are small, partial tears in a ligament, but they also can be complete tears. Mild sprains usually heal over time, whereas severe sprains with complete tears can require surgery.

Strains:

Muscles and tendons are subject to strains, which are partial or full tears in the tissue, often caused by overuse or injury. Typically, these strains are mild and can heal at home, although more severe strains may require physical therapy or rehab.

How do I prevent injuries?

The best way to keep muscles, tendons and ligaments safe and in good, working condition is to maintain a healthy level of daily activity. Because all of the tissues work together, it's important to care for them as a complete system, not as individual components.

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