Muscular System Anatomy
There are three types of muscle tissue: Visceral, cardiac, and skeletal.
- Visceral Muscle. Visceral muscle is found inside of organs like the, intestines, and blood vessels. The weakest of all muscle tissues, visceral muscle makes organs contract to move substances through the organ. Because visceral muscle is controlled by the unconscious part of the brain, it is known as involuntary muscle—it cannot be directly controlled by the conscious mind. The term “smooth muscle” is often used to describe visceral muscle because it has a very smooth, uniform appearance when viewed under a microscope. This smooth appearance starkly contrasts with the banded appearance of cardiac and skeletal muscles.
- Cardiac Muscle. Found only in the, cardiac muscle is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. Cardiac muscle tissue cannot be controlled consciously, so it is an involuntary muscle. While hormones and signals from the adjust the rate of contraction, cardiac muscle stimulates itself to contract. The natural pacemaker of the heart is made of cardiac muscle tissue that stimulates other cardiac muscle cells to contract. Because of its self-stimulation, cardiac muscle is considered to be autorhythmic or intrinsically controlled.
The cells of cardiac muscle tissue are striated—that is, they appear to have light and dark stripes when viewed under a light microscope. The arrangement of protein fibers inside of the cells causes these light and dark bands. Striations indicate that a muscle cell is very strong, unlike visceral muscles.
The cells of cardiac muscle are branched X or Y shaped cells tightly connected together by special junctions called intercalated disks. Intercalated disks are made up of fingerlike projections from two neighboring cells that interlock and provide a strong bond between the cells. The branched structure and intercalated disks allow the muscle cells to resist high blood pressures and the strain of pumping blood throughout a lifetime. These features also help to spread electrochemical signals quickly from cell to cell so that the heart can beat as a unit.
- Skeletal Muscle. Skeletal muscle is the only voluntary muscle tissue in the human body—it is controlled consciously. Every physical action that a person consciously performs (e.g. speaking, walking, or writing) requires skeletal muscle. The function of skeletal muscle is to contract to move parts of the body closer to the bone that the muscle is attached to. Most skeletal muscles are attached to two bones across a joint, so the muscle serves to move parts of those bones closer to each other.
Skeletal muscle cells form when many smaller progenitor cells lump themselves together to form long, straight, multinucleated fibers. Striated just like cardiac muscle, these skeletal muscle fibers are very strong. Skeletal muscle derives its name from the fact that these muscles always connect to the skeleton in at least one place.
Gross Anatomy of a Skeletal Muscle
Most skeletal muscles are attached to two bones through tendons. Tendons are tough bands of dense regular connective tissue whose strong collagen fibers firmly attach muscles to bones. Tendons are under extreme stress when muscles pull on them, so they are very strong and are woven into the coverings of both muscles and bones.
Muscles move by shortening their length, pulling on tendons, and moving bones closer to each other. One of the bones is pulled towards the other bone, which remains stationary. The place on the stationary bone that is connected via tendons to the muscle is called the origin. The place on the moving bone that is connected to the muscle via tendons is called the insertion. The belly of the muscle is the fleshy part of the muscle in between the tendons that does the actual contraction.
Names of Skeletal Muscles
Skeletal muscles are named based on many different factors, including their location, origin and insertion, number of origins, shape, size, direction, and function.
- Location. Many muscles derive their names from their anatomical region. The rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis, for example, are found in the . Some muscles, like the, are named after the part of the bone (the anterior portion of the ) that they are attached to. Other muscles use a hybrid of these two, like the brachioradialis, which is named after a region (brachial) and a bone.
- Origin and Insertion. Some muscles are named based upon their connection to a stationary bone (origin) and a moving bone (insertion). These muscles become very easy to identify once you know the names of the bones that they are attached to. Examples of this type of muscle include the (connecting the and to the mastoid process of the skull) and the occipitofrontalis (connecting the to the ).
- Number of Origins. Some muscles connect to more than one bone or to more than one place on a bone, and therefore have more than one origin. A muscle with two origins is called a biceps. A muscle with three origins is a triceps muscle. Finally, a muscle with four origins is a quadriceps muscle.
- Shape, Size, and Direction. We also classify muscles by their shapes. For example, the have a delta or triangular shape. The serratus muscles feature a serrated or saw-like shape. The rhomboid major is a rhombus or diamond shape. The size of the muscle can be used to distinguish between two muscles found in the same region. The gluteal region contains three muscles differentiated by size—the gluteus maximus (large), gluteus medius (medium), and gluteus minimus (smallest). Finally, the direction in which the muscle fibers run can be used to identify a muscle. In the abdominal region, there are several sets of wide, flat muscles. The muscles whose fibers run straight up and down are the, the ones running transversely (left to right) are the transverse abdominis, and the ones running at an angle are the obliques.
- Function. Muscles are sometimes classified by the type of function that they perform. Most of the muscles of the forearms are named based on their function because they are located in the same region and have similar shapes and sizes. For example, the flexor group of the forearm flexes the wrist and the fingers. The is a muscle that supinates the wrist by rolling it over to face palm up. In the leg, there are muscles called adductors whose role is to adduct (pull together) the legs.