Musculoskeletal System: Definition and What It Is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Maureen Lu, PT, DPT

Musculoskeletal System Definition and Meaning

The musculoskeletal (MSK) system is a comprehensive network that, as the name implies, combines the skeletal and muscular systems of the body. The musculoskeletal system is made up of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues that work together to provide structural support for the entire body, protect internal organs, and facilitate movement. 

Anatomy of the Musculoskeletal System

The musculoskeletal system is intricate, with more than 200 bones and numerous muscles. Bones provide a rigid structure, and muscles (which are controlled by the central nervous system) facilitate movement by contracting and relaxing. Tendons connect muscles to bones, and ligaments connect bones to each other and add stability to joints.

Common Musculoskeletal System Conditions

Musculoskeletal conditions encompass a wide array of ailments, including sprains, strains, tendinitis, bursitis, and various other aches and pains that can impact your muscles and bones. This also includes conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis.

The Musculoskeletal System and Pain: A Hinge Health Perspective

Millions of people suffering from chronic musculoskeletal pain find it tempting to avoid the motions that cause pain. But as our Hinge Health care team says, movement is medicine. Exercise actually retrains the brain and body to manage pain and is often the very best way to help lessen discomfort, avoid surgery, and improve quality of life. In fact, all the leading medical bodies recommend preventative, non-invasive MSK care before drugs and surgery in most cases.

Musculoskeletal pain is more complex than simply what may or may not be happening in your body. Other factors, like life stressors, can also play a big role in how you experience pain. And for most common musculoskeletal conditions, regardless of what may or may not be contributing to pain in your tissues, the solution is often the same. Movement — through physical and exercise therapy — builds strength, flexibility, and resilience to pain.

How Physical Therapy Can Help With Musculoskeletal System Conditions

Physical therapy is beneficial for many conditions and injuries involving the musculoskeletal system. Treatment options can often include customized strengthening and stretching programs, massage therapy, and other lifestyle interventions designed to improve function, enhance mobility, and reduce pain.

For example, in conditions like osteoarthritis, physical therapy can help by strengthening muscles around affected joints, which, in turn, can reduce the load on these joints and alleviate pain. In the case of overuse injuries, such as runner’s knee, physical therapists (PTs) can recommend exercises that promote healing and build capacity to prevent future injuries.

You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


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  2. What is Musculoskeletal Health? (n.d.). Indiana University School of Medicine. Retrieved from 

  3. Murphy, A. C., Muldoon, S. F., Baker, D., Lastowka, A., Bennett, B., Yang, M., & Bassett, D. S. (2018). Structure, function, and control of the human musculoskeletal network. PLOS Biology, 16(1), e2002811. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2002811

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