Common Diseases of Skeletal System

Bones, tendons, ligaments and cartilage make up the skeletal system. The primary function of the skeletal system is providing support for the body to maintain posture and movement. The skeletal system protects the internal organs such as the brain and heart. Diseases affecting the skeletal system break down the bones or connecting tissues that allow the system to protect the body and function properly. Common skeletal system diseases include bursitis, arthritis and osteoporosis.

A senior man with arthritic hands. (Image: Djordje_Stojiljkovic/iStock/Getty Images)


The Mayo Clinic indicates common locations for bursitis to appear include the shoulders, elbows and hips. Bursitis is a painful condition impacting the cushioning between the bones, tendons and muscles near the joints. Inflammation of the bursae often causes aching and stiffness in the joints. Bursitis may occur after repeated motion such as throwing a ball or cycling. In mild cases of bursitis, swelling may occur. Severe instances of bursitis lasting more than two weeks require medical intervention with anti-inflammatory medications as well as rest of the affected area. Bursitis is a risk for people involved in repetitive motion such as carpet laying or gardening and may also be a risk when other medical conditions occur at the same time, such as arthritis.


Arthritis is a joint disorder causing inflammation and pain in the affected area. There are several forms of arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation lists the most common as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative joint disease. The breakdown of cartilage in this form of arthritis leads to the bones rubbing together, causing stiffness, pain and eventual loss of movement in the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis, also a chronic disease, is characterized by inflammation in the lining of the joints. Both forms of arthritis can progress and become debilitating, causing loss of normal functioning in daily life. The cause of arthritis is difficult to determine. Risk factors may include genetics, age, weight and previous injury to the joints. Treatments for arthritis include medication, physical therapy and possible surgery options.


The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) explains that osteoporosis causes low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue. This increases fragility of bones and may be prevented as well as treated upon onset. Osteoporosis statistics reported by NIAMS indicate women are currently at higher risk than men for development of this disease due to risk factors of small frame and less bone tissue volume. Simple prevention methods such as healthy nutrition habits, increased calcium in daily diet and exercise may decrease risk of developing this disease. Osteoporosis treatment includes nutrition planning, exercise and hormone therapy.

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