Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Muscles: Turning Energy into Motion

Most of us take our muscles for granted, not realizing how crucial they are to us. Muscles are the body’s engine, and energy is the fuel. It would be impossible for us to do anything without them, including expressing ourselves. We convey ideas through spoken words using the muscles of the mouth, tongue and larynx, through written words using the muscles of the fingers, or through body language using skeletal muscles.

The human body contains more than 630 muscles. Approximately 35-45% of body mass is muscle tissue. Muscles are long- lasting, self-healing and grow stronger with use. There are three unique kinds of muscle:

Cardiac muscle, which is found only in your heart. It contracts involuntarily; it is automatically controlled by the nervous system.
Smooth muscle is found in blood vessels, the digestive system, bladder, airways, and the uterus in a female. It also contracts involuntarily.
Skeletal muscle is the kind we can see and feel. They attach to the skeleton and come in pairs; one muscle to move in one direction and another to move back the other way. Skeletal muscles contract voluntarily, you have to think about contracting them and the nervous system tells them to respond.

There are many problems which can affect muscles, causing pain and/or weakness. Some of the most common and least severe muscle disorders include:

Sprain: A stretched or torn ligament. Wrist and ankle sprains are common and can be caused by falling or twisting.
Strain: A stretched or torn muscle or tendon. Strains can happen suddenly or develop over time. Hamstring and back muscle strains are most common and are usually caused by twisting or pulling of the tissues. Many people suffer strains from playing sports.
Muscle cramps: Sudden, involuntary contractions or spasms in the muscle, also called charley horse. Muscle cramps often occur after exercise or at night and can be caused by dehydration, strain or overuse of a muscle, lack of minerals in your diet, or insufficient blood supply to your muscles.
Tendinitis: Inflammation of a tendon, usually occurring in the elbows, knees, shoulders, hips, heels or wrists. Certain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause tendinitis, but it is most commonly caused by injuries and overuse.

There are also many more serious muscle disorders such as cancers, diseases of the nerves that affect the muscles, and genetic diseases.

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” comes to mind when considering muscles. Use your muscles and strengthen them, you will need them to carry out everyday tasks and prevent you from falling and breaking bones as you grow older.