What are muscles?
Muscles are soft tissues in the human body that have the ability to contract and generate force. The human body contains over 600 muscles. These muscles are responsible for various functions, including movement, stability, and support. They range in size and shape, from small muscles in the face to larger muscles in the legs and back. Each muscle plays a specific role and works in coordination with others to enable the body to perform a wide range of activities.
Different types of muscles:
- Skeletal Muscles – Skeletal muscles are attached to bones through tendons and are responsible for voluntary movements.
- Smooth Muscles – Smooth muscles are found in the walls of internal organs, blood vessels, and other structures.
- Cardiac Muscles – Cardiac muscles are specific to the heart.
Skeletal, smooth, and cardiac muscles have distinct functions, but they share a common fundamental composition. A muscle consists of numerous tightly bundled elastic fibers. Each bundle is enveloped by a thin, transparent membrane known as the perimysium.
Within an individual muscle fiber, there are blocks of proteins called myofibrils. These myofibrils house specialized proteins such as myoglobin, along with molecules necessary for providing oxygen and energy required for muscle contraction. Each myofibril contains filaments that fold together in response to contraction signals. This folding action leads to the shortening of the muscle fiber’s length. When a sufficient number of fibers are stimulated simultaneously, the entire muscle contracts and undergoes a reduction in length.
Muscle disorders, known as myopathies, can manifest with a range of symptoms, such as weakness, pain, reduced mobility, and in severe instances, paralysis. These conditions encompass a diverse array of issues that impact the normal structure, function, and integrity of muscles. As a result, individuals affected by muscle disorders may experience limitations in their ability to move and perform daily activities.
Understanding Muscle Disorders: Types and Treatments
- Injury or overuse, including sprains or strains, cramps, tendonitis and bruising
- Genetic problems, such as muscular dystrophy
- Inflammation, such as myositis
- Diseases of nerves that affect muscles, such as multiple sclerosis.
- Conditions that cause muscle weakness, such as metabolic, endocrine, or toxic disorders; for example, thyroid, and adrenal diseases, alcoholism, pesticide poisoning, medications (steroids, statins), and myasthenia gravis
- Cancers, such as soft tissue sarcoma.
- Medications – oral and topical medications to relieve pain and inflammation
- Occupational Therapy – Occupational therapy focuses on assisting individuals in regaining and maintaining their independence in daily activities.
- Physical therapy – can include manual manipulation, ultrasound therapy, and electronic muscle stimulation
- Surgical Interventions – In some cases, surgical procedures may be necessary to address specific muscle issues.
- Bracing and supports – Various assistive devices can provide support and compensate for muscle weakness or limitations. Examples include canes, walkers, braces, orthotics, wheelchairs, and mobility aids.