What is the Skeletal System

The normal human skeleton has 206 bones. Each of them are classified according to their shape and size, and each having their own purpose. The skeletal system as a whole has several of its own responsibilities.

Probably the most obvious of these, is its bodily support, and the next being for the protection of internal organs. Our skeleton gives us movement with the aid of various muscles, tendons and ligaments; the bones store minerals such as phosphorous and calcium; and they serve to create red blood cells.

There are five classifications of bones in the human skeletal system:

1- Long bones are longer than they are wide, and include the humerus and the femur.

2- Short bones, which are also called cube bones have nearly the same length as they do width. The ankle and the wrist bones are examples of such.

3- Sesamoid, special kinds of bones like the knee, protect the tendon that covers a joint.

4- Flat bones are another kind which are not only as its name suggests, but are also thin and curved such as a rib.

5- Irregular bones consist of those that do not fit into any other category.

As with the various classes of bones, there are also different types of fractures that can occur. They are as follows:

– The Colles fracture. This is most common in children and happens often during a fall when the individual puts out their hands to catch themselves.

– A Greenstick fracture is when the bone breaks under pressure, but it does not break all the way.

– The closed, or otherwise known as the simple fracture does break all the way through. In neither of the above cases does the bone exit through the skin.

– The impacted bone fracture occurs when the end of one bone is lodged into the end of the connecting bone.

– When the bone has more than one fracture line and breaks into several pieces, it is called a comminuted fracture.

– The spiral fracture happens many times during a ski or snowboarding fall, when the body twists out of shape. The bones literally twist in the similar way of a corkscrew.

– The last category is the pathological fracture which is caused by bone weakness or disease.

There are of course many disorders that can be found within this system. The three most common disorders deal mainly with the spine. They are:

A) Scoliosis which is the abnormal sideways curvature of the spine;

B) Kyphosis, better known as humpback, is the abnormal outward curvature of the spine;

C) Lordosis is the abnormal forward curvature of the spine.

For more information on the skeletal system, its’ disorders or any other aspect, there are many websites and books dedicated to this topic.




Burns, Sharon BSN, RN, & Margaret Prudent RN. Essential Medical Terminology. Darley Publishing Group, Canada, 2006.