Created by CK-12 Foundation/Adapted by Christine Miller
Case Study: A Pain in the Foot
Sophia loves wearing high heels when she goes out at night, like the stiletto heels shown in Figure 11.1.1. She knows they are not the most practical shoes, but she likes how they look.
Lately, she has been experiencing pain in the balls of her feet — the area just behind the toes. Even when she trades her heels for comfortable sneakers, it still hurts when she stands or walks.
What could be going on? She searches online to try to find some answers. She finds a reputable source for foot pain information — a website from a professional organization of physicians that peer reviews the content by experts in the field. There, she reads about a condition called metatarsalgia, which produces pain in the ball of the foot that sounds very similar to what she is experiencing.
She learns that a common cause of metatarsalgia is the wearing of high heels. Shoes like this push the foot into an abnormal position, resulting in excessive pressure being placed on the ball of the foot. Looking at the photograph above (Figure 11.1.1), you can imagine how much of the woman’s body weight is focused on the ball of her foot, because of the shape of her high heels. If she were not wearing high heels, her weight would be more evenly distributed across her foot.
As she reads more about the hazards of high heels, Sophia learns that they can also cause foot deformities, such as hammertoes, bunions, and small cracks in bone called stress fractures. High heels may even contribute to the development of osteoarthritis of the knees at an early age.
These conditions caused by high heels are all problems of the , which includes and that hold bones together and cushion them at joints (such as the knee). The skeletal system supports the body’s weight and protects internal organs, but as you will learn as you read this chapter, it also carries out a variety of other important physiological functions.
At the end of the chapter, you will find out why high heels can cause these skeletal system problems, as well as the steps Sophia takes to recover from her foot pain and prevent long-term injury.
In this chapter, you will learn about the structure, functions, growth, repair, and disorders of the skeletal system. Specifically you will learn about:
- The components of the skeletal system, which includes bones, ligaments, and cartilage.
- The functions of the skeletal system, including supporting and giving shape to the body; protecting internal organs; facilitating movement; producing blood cells; helping maintain homeostasis; and producing endocrine hormones.
- The organization and functions of the two main divisions of the skeletal system: the axial skeletal system (which includes the skull, spine, and rib cage), and the appendicular skeletal system (which includes the limbs and girdles that attach the limbs to the axial skeleton).
- The tissues and cells that make up bones, along with their specific functions, which include making new bone, breaking down bone, producing blood cells, and regulating mineral homeostasis.
- The different types of bones in the skeletal system, based on shape and location.
- How bones grow, remodel, and repair themselves.
- The different types of joints between bones, where they are located, and the ways in which they allow different types of movement, depending on their structure.
- The causes, risk factors, and treatments for the two most common disorders of the skeletal system — osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
As you read this chapter, think about the following questions:
- Sophia suspects she has a condition called metatarsalgia. This term is related to the term “metatarsals.” What are metatarsals, where are they located, and how do you think they are related to metatarsalgia?
- High heels can cause stress fractures, which are small cracks in bone that usually appear after repeated mechanical stress, instead of after a significant acute injury. What other condition described in this chapter involves a similar process?
- What are bunions and osteoarthritis of the knee? Why do you think they can be caused by wearing high heels?
Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.p.). Metatarsalgia [online article]. MayoClinic.org. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metatarsalgia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354790
The body system composed of bones and cartilage and performs the following critical functions for the human body: supports the body. The skeletal system facilitates movement, protects internal organs, and produces blood cells.
A rigid organ that constitutes part of the vertebrate skeleton in animals.
One of the four basic types of tissue, connective tissue is found in between other tissues everywhere in the body, including the nervous system and generally forms a framework and support structure for body tissues and organs.