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Skeletal System

Discover the captivating secrets of the human skeletal system, unraveling its intricate structure and functions, and unlocking the mysteries that lie within our bones.

USMLE Guide: Skeletal System


The skeletal system is an essential component of the human body, providing support, protection, and movement. It is composed of bones, cartilage, ligaments, and other connective tissues. Understanding the skeletal system is crucial for medical professionals, especially for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This guide aims to provide an overview of the skeletal system to help you prepare for the USMLE.

Anatomy of the Skeletal System


  • Bones are the primary structures of the skeletal system.
  • They provide rigidity, support, and protection to various organs.
  • Bones are classified into four main types: long bones, short bones, flat bones, and irregular bones.
  • Examples of long bones include the femur, humerus, and phalanges. Short bones include the carpals and tarsals. Flat bones include the skull and scapula, and irregular bones include the vertebrae and pelvis.


  • Cartilage is a flexible connective tissue found in the skeletal system.
  • It provides cushioning and flexibility between bones.
  • The most common type of cartilage is hyaline cartilage, found in joint surfaces and the rib cage.
  • Elastic cartilage is found in the external ear, while fibrocartilage is found in intervertebral discs.


  • Ligaments are tough bands of connective tissue that connect bones to each other.
  • They provide stability and limit excessive movement between bones.
  • Ligaments are important for joint stability and function.


  • Joints are the points where two or more bones meet.
  • They allow movement and flexibility in the skeletal system.
  • Joints can be classified into three main types: fibrous joints, cartilaginous joints, and synovial joints.
  • Synovial joints are the most common type and allow the greatest range of motion.

Function of the Skeletal System

Support and Structure

  • The skeletal system provides a framework that supports and maintains the shape of the body.
  • It gives structure to the muscles, organs, and tissues.


  • Bones protect vital organs such as the brain, spinal cord, heart, and lungs.
  • For example, the skull protects the brain, and the ribcage protects the heart and lungs.


  • The skeletal system, along with muscles and joints, allows movement.
  • Muscles attach to bones and contract, causing movement of the skeletal system.


  • Hematopoiesis is the process of blood cell production.
  • Red bone marrow found in certain bones produces red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Common Skeletal System Disorders


  • Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones.
  • It is commonly seen in postmenopausal women and the elderly.
  • Risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle, low calcium intake, and hormonal changes.
  • Treatment involves lifestyle modifications, calcium and vitamin D supplementation, and medications.


  • Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease involving the breakdown of cartilage.
  • It commonly affects weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, and spine.
  • Risk factors include aging, obesity, previous joint injuries, and genetics.
  • Treatment involves pain management, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints.
  • It often affects the hands, wrists, and feet.
  • Symptoms include joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformity.
  • Treatment includes disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications.


Understanding the skeletal system is crucial for medical professionals preparing for the USMLE. This guide has provided an overview of the anatomy, function, and common disorders of the skeletal system. Remember to study further and consult additional resources for a comprehensive understanding of this topic. Good luck with your USMLE preparation!

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