Thursday, April 12, 2012

What's So Funny About Funny Bones?

Everyone probably has experienced the tingling, funny sensation when they hit the right spot on their elbows- the feeling is indescribably "weird." We call this spot the "funny bone." So what actually is this funny bone?

First of all, funny bone is actually not a bone- it is an ulnar nerve that surprisingly actually does not touch the ulna (forearm bone), but is very close to the humerus. It is also very close to the surface of the skin, which explains why even the slightest tap on the right spot can trigger the sensation.

The most obvious function of elbows is structure- it is a joint that connects both part of your arm. We often use elbows as a striking appendage, like a Muay Thai fighter "elbowing" another fighter. Perhaps this ulnar nerve is telling us not to hit each other?

PS. The opposite side of the elbow, commonly called the elbow-pit, is called cubital fossa.


  1. I've always heard about the funny bone, but never knew anything about it. It's interesting to learn that it's a real thing, except a nerve instead of a bone. Really interesting!

  2. if its a nerve, then where did the name "bone" come into the picture?

  3. I'm sure it was called a "bone" before people knew it was actually a bundle of nerves. If you were to just tap on your funny bone without knowing anything about its true anatomy, you would probably just assume it's a bone too. But also, according to wikipedia, it's meant as a pun because the "humerus" bone sounds like "humorous" tee hee!

    Nate, that'a an interesting idea about the reason the ulnar nerve is exposed. I've tried looking for other reasons, but I can't seem to find any. Perhaps since it is relatively unimportant (as in not important for living, although I wouldn't want to lose the ability to move some of my fingers), then the energy costs of producing more bone to protect it outweighed the possible benefits of having it protected? I don't know. Your answer was more interesting haha.

  4. Why is this nerve so sensitive? i.e. why did this evolve on this part of the body and not elsewhere in larger numbers? What was the benefit of having the nerve placed this way. Just pondering out don't have to answer any of these. :)