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Muscle fibers range in length from a few hundred thousandths of a centimeter to several centimeters. They also vary in shape, and in color from white to deep red. Each fiber receives its own nerve impulses, so that fine and varied motions are possible. Each has its small stored supply of glycogen, which it uses as fuel for energy. Muscles, especially the heart, also use free fatty acids as fuel. At the signal of an impulse traveling down the nerve, the muscle fiber changes chemical energy into mechanical energy, and the result is muscle contraction.
Some muscles are attached to bones by tendons. Others are attached to other muscles, or to skin (producing the smile, the wink, and other facial expressions, for example). All or part of the walls of hollow internal organs, such as the heart, stomach, intestines, and blood vessels, are composed of muscles. The last stages of swallowing and of peristalsis are actually series of contractions by the muscles in the walls of the organs involved.
Involuntary muscles are those not under the control of the conscious part of the brain; they respond to the nerve impulses of the autonomic nervous system. They include the countless short-fibered, or smooth, muscles of the internal organs and power the digestive tract, the pupils of the eyes, and all other involuntary mechanisms.
Voluntary muscles are those controlled by the conscious part of the brain, and are striated. These are the skeletal muscles that enable the body to move, and there are more than 600 of them in the human body. Their fibers are grouped together in sheaths of muscle cells. Groups of fibers are bundled together into fascicles, surrounded by a tough sheet of connective tissue to form a muscle group such as the biceps. Unlike the involuntary muscles, which can remain in a state of contraction for long periods without tiring and are capable of sustained rhythmic contractions, the voluntary muscles are readily subject to fatigue.
Cardiac muscles (the muscles of the heart) are the third kind; they are involuntary and consist of striated fibers different from those of voluntary muscle. The contraction and relaxation of cardiac muscle continues at a rhythmic pace until death unless the muscle is injured in some way. (See also heart.)
Muscles enable the body to perform different types of movement. Those that bend a limb at a joint, raising a thigh or bending an elbow, are called flexors. Those that straighten a limb are called extensors. Others, the abductors, make possible movement away from the midline of the body, whereas the adductors permit movement toward the midline. Muscles always act in opposing groups. In bending an elbow or flexing a muscle, for example, the biceps (flexor) contracts and the triceps (extensor) relaxes. The reverse happens in straightening the elbow.
A muscle that has contracted many times, and has exhausted its stores of glycogen and other substances, and accumulated too much lactic acid, becomes unable to contract further and suffers from fatigue. In prolonged exhausting work, fat in the muscles can also be used for energy, and as a consequence the muscles become leaner.
Synonym(s): musculus [TA] .
Patient discussion about musculus
Q. What are muscle cramps caused from? I am a 30 year old woman and am pregnant. I keep on getting a muscle cramps on the back on my lower leg. It really hurts! What is causing it and how can I prevent it?
No one knows for certain what causes leg cramps in pregnancy, though there are some theories: Deficiencies in salt, calcium, magnesium and vitamin C or changes in blood circulation.
To prevent it make sure to stretch your muscles before bed and if you do get a cramp, immediately stretch your calf muscles: Straighten your leg, heel first, and gently flex your toes back toward your shins. It might hurt at first, but it will ease the spasm and the pain will gradually go away.
Q. Why do my muscles sometimes burn when I'm exercising? I do exercise twice a day. Why do my muscles sometimes burn when I'm exercising?
Muscle cells take up glucose (muscle glycogen) and convert them into lactic acid, which the mitrochondria in the cells then use for energy. The old theory was that lactic acid was a waste product that hindered performance. New scholarship on this actually shows that lactic acid is a SOURCE of fuel, not a "dead end as far as energy production is concerned."
Much of this new thinking has come from research performed by Dr. George Brooks at the University of California - Berkely. You can read more here: http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2006/04/19_lactate.shtml
Researchers also now believe that muscle acidosis (that burning sensation during exercise)is not caused by increases in lactate within the muscle, but rather by a completely separate reaction when ATP is h
Q. What can I do to build muscle and develop immunity? I'm Mickey, 21. My height is 5’5” and I weigh 176 lbs. I love out door games especially soccer. I have poor immunity that I get sick very often. What can I do to build muscle and develop immunity?