Why is MSK health important?

Musculoskeletal health means working joints and strong muscles and strong bones

Musculoskeletal health is important as it gives us mobility and dexterity.  This gives us the ability to do in comfort the physical tasks of everyday life and to enjoy our lives through work, rest, and play right through to retirement and older ages. 

Being physically active and doing exercise keeps us healthy – but we cannot do this without being able to move freely without pain.  Being physically inactive puts at risk of poor health.

This is increasingly important.  We are all living longer, we are being asked to work longer, retirement ages are being increased.

If we can maintain our musculoskeletal health, then we can continue in work as nearly all work needs dexterity and mobility.  We can maintain our economic independence and go into retirement with active bodies that allow us to enjoy those years beyond work, not just for ourselves but also with our children and grand-children.

Musculoskeletal system in detail

The bones, cartilage, ligaments and muscles all work together controlled by the nervous system to give us movement.

  • Ligaments connect bones to bones at the joints of our skeletons, and tendons connect muscles to bones. The muscles are controlled voluntarily by our nervous system and movement occurs at the joints.
  • Movement requires energy but it strengthens the musculoskeletal system and keeps it healthy.


  • Where two or more bones meet and movement takes place by surfaces sliding freely over one another, covered by  cartilage and lubricated by synovial fluid.  They are designed to last a lifetime but some do not such as hip and knee joints.


  • Bones form the skeleton which gives support for the body, protects vital structures and gives the mechanical basis for movement. The bones of the head, neck, trunk (ribs, vertebrae and sacrum) make up the axial skeleton. The limb bones make up the appendicular skeleton.
  • Are designed to withstand load. 
  • Lose density and strength with less load-bearing activities, e.g. lying, resting, astronauts in space.
  • Gain density and strength with load-bearing activities, e.g. skipping, running.
  • Osteoporosis is the consequence of loss of bone density and increases fracture risk.


  • Is a strong, flexible, smooth material predominantly composed of collagen that covers the ends of bone.  It reduces friction allowing free movement.
  • It doesn’t have blood vessels or nerves.  It receives nutrition from fluid that is produced when the joint is moved.
  • The cartilage cells (known as chondrocytes) do not often replicate or repair themselves.
  • As we age, the smooth layer of cartilage on each surface of the joint dehydrates making it less and less elastic, and it loses its smoothness.   This may affect movement at the joint e.g. stiffness, pain.


  • Muscles are bundles of cells and fibres.  They need a good blood supply to provide the oxygen needed for their work. They are incredibly sophisticated, efficient, long-lasting, self-healing and they are able to grow stronger with practice. They do everything from allowing you to walk to keeping your blood flowing!
  • There are two main types:
  • Power Muscles: big and long muscles that generate high force or motion.  Power muscles tend to be superficial, and work hard for a short period of time.  They use a lot of energy and so fatigue quickly.  They are used at times of danger, stress, fight, and flight.  They can tighten with increased and decreased use creating a pull on the joint.
  • Postural Muscles:  small deep muscles located close to the joints. They provide fine control and protection. Postural muscles use less energy and so have good endurance.  They can work a little bit for long periods supporting the body. int e.g. stiffness, pain.


  • Send and receive messages from the skin, muscles and joints and play a very important role in relaying messages between the brain, spinal cord (central nervous system) and various parts of the body in order to allow normal and efficient functioning.
  • For example, the force generated by biceps to carry a book is dependent on sensory information gathered and sent up to the brain to determine the extent of muscle control required / task demands.