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Biology LibreTexts

14.1: Case Study: Your Support System

  • Page ID
    22544
  • Case Study: A Pain in the Foot

    Amari loves wearing high heels when they go out at night, like the stiletto heels shown in Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\). Amari uses gender-neutral pronouns, such as they, them, and their. They know high heels are not the most practical shoes, but they like how they look. Lately, Amari has been experiencing pain in the balls of their feet—the area just behind the toes. Even when they trade heels for comfortable sneakers, it still hurts when they stand or walk.

    high heels
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): high heels

    What could be going on? Amari searches online to try to find some answers. They find 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, Amari reads about a condition called metatarsalgia, which produces pain in the ball of the foot that sounds very similar to what they are experiencing.

    Amari learns that a common cause of metatarsalgia is the wearing of high heels because they push the foot into an abnormal position. This results in excessive pressure being placed onto the ball of the foot. Looking at the photograph above, you can imagine how much of the body weight is focused on the ball of the foot because of the shape of the high heels. If they were not wearing high heels, the weight would be more evenly distributed across the foot.

    As they read more about the hazards of high heels, Amari learns that heels can also cause foot deformities such as hammertoes and bunions, small cracks in the bone called stress fractures, and 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 skeletal system, which includes bones and connective tissues 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 and the steps Amari takes to recover from their foot pain and prevent long-term injury.

    Chapter Overview: Skeletal System

    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 include bones, ligaments, and cartilage.
    • The functions of the skeletal system, which include 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 and their specific functions, including 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:

    1. Amari suspects they have 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?
    2. High heels can cause stress fractures, which are small cracks in the 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?
    3. What are bunions and osteoarthritis of the knee? Why do you think they can be caused by wearing high heels?

    Attributions

    1. High heels by Agnali via Pixabay license
    2. Text adapted from Human Biology by CK-12 licensed CC BY-NC 3.0