Considerations of Sex Differences in Musculoskeletal Anatomy

  • Phillip S. SizerEmail author
  • C. Roger James


The musculoskeletal anatomy of women and men is grossly similar yet individually distinctive. Sexual dimorphism in the human musculoskeletal system is apparent, but more subtle than in other species. Some musculoskeletal sex differences in humans are present at an early age, while others tend to appear later in life. Sex differences in gross skeletal geometry and specific tissue characteristics are common. Women tend to have different characteristics of specific bones and bony features than men which have been explained by both genetic and environmental factors. Women and men appear to have several differences in collagenous, cartilage, and bone tissues, which may predispose women to certain pathologies such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis later in life. Sexual dimorphism can manifest itself in specific differences in each joint throughout the body, possibly resulting in sex differences in clinical pathology and symptomology such as differences in shoulder impingement; laxity and idiopathic capsulitis; elbow tendinosis; carpal tunnel syndrome; hip fracture and labral tears; anterior cruciate ligament injuries; ankle sprains and Achilles tendinopathy; cervical spine macrotrauma; thoracolumbar postural changes including kyphosis, lordosis, and/or scoliosis; and sacroiliac joint conditions. Consideration of the sex differences in musculoskeletal anatomy is important for both the general public and health care professionals in order to provide a basis for understanding normal and abnormal conditions that may exist. Moreover, a thorough appreciation that men and women have differences in musculoskeletal anatomy may help in the understanding that they have distinctive health care needs.


Sexual dimorphism Female Pathoanatomy Anatomy Sex differences Structure 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SCD Program in Physical Therapy, Department of Rehabilitation SciencesTexas Tech University Health Sciences CenterLubbockUSA
  2. 2.Department of Rehabilitation SciencesTexas Tech University Health Sciences CenterLubbockUSA

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