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What is the Interosseous Membrane?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The interosseous membrane is a type of connective tissue found between certain bones in the body. The membrane performs a number of functions including creating compartments to separate different structures, distributing the impact of forces, and separating the joints. The long bones of the lower arm and leg both have attached interosseous membranes and this type of tissue can be seen in many other living organisms.

In the leg, the membrane extends between the tibia and the fibula, running along the crests of the bones. The muscles in the leg are separated into sections in the front and back with this membrane. The strong but flexible membrane allows impacts to either bone to be absorbed and distributed, limiting the risks of fractures and other damages, and it also plays a role in the knee joint. Tears in the membrane can occur as a result of severe trauma and may also be created during surgery.

The interosseous membrane in the arm extends between the radius and ulna in the lower arm. It fulfills many of the same functions as the membrane in the leg and can be clearly seen in cross-sections of the arm. It is involved in the elbow joint and helps to stabilize the lower arm bones for strength, durability, and flexibility. Like other joint tissue, it is designed to be able to deform and flex, rather than shredding or fracturing on impact, allowing the joint to absorb considerable stress before damage will be incurred.

This tissue is highly fibrous in nature. Fibrous tissues can be found in many other areas of the body, like the ligaments, and they are usually designed with the fibers running in a direction that will facilitate absorption of impacts without breakage. Twisting bones with an attached interosseous membrane in an abnormal or extreme position can damage the membrane, as well as creating a fracture in one or both bones. The connection to the joint can potentially create associated damage in the joint as a result of these kinds of injuries as well.

Parts of the interosseous membrane may be seen during surgical procedures in areas of the body where this anatomical structure is present. It is also explored during autopsy and dissection procedures, to learn more about a patient's particular case or to collect information about the functioning of the body in general. During dissections, people learn to identify this structure and use it as a landmark to find other structures in the area.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By pastanaga — On Oct 02, 2011

I was reading an article about the components of the human leg on a massage therapy course and they described the interosseous membrane in a way that makes it easy to remember the shape.

They said to think of it as though someone had wrapped the membrane around the two bones of the leg and then use their fingers to press in between them in order to make it work like each bone was in a separate wrapping.

So, even though it is basically all in one piece, it still manages to wrap around both the bones of your lower leg.

By browncoat — On Oct 01, 2011

@Mor - It isn't just inert tissue that exists only as a shock absorbent though. The interosseous membrane contains nerves, and blood vessels of course.

And it also acts as a place for the muscles of the arm to attach to and push against to add force to your movements. It also kind of stabilizes the bones in relation to each other.

Almost everything in the body pulls double duty. Very little of it is just there as "filler".

By Mor — On Sep 30, 2011

This is the kind of tissue I would never have imagined to exist without being told, but which makes perfect sense when you think about it.

I mean, I knew that my forearms and calves have two bones running alongside each other.

I guess they have them like that because it gives us much greater flexibility. If it was a single bone, you probably wouldn't be able to twist your hands in so many different directions.

But, if it was two bones without much between them, they would be dangerously vulnerable to damage. And what could really go between them?

This kind of filler tissue is perfect for absorbing shock, but maintaining flexibility.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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