Why does my funny bone feel so funny?

There's nothing humorous about your humerus

Ahh, the funny bone. The most pointlessly painful part of the human body. Now I know there’s a reason we feel pain – if it didn’t feel pain when we hurt ourselves we’d be doing a lot more damage to our relatviely fragile bodies. But why, even if we just tap our ‘funny bone’ lightly, do we feel a ridiculous amount of pain and tingling?

Well let’s start with the name of the so-called  ‘funny bone’. A lot of people already know that the term funny bone came from a play on words on the bone in our upper arm – the humerus. Humerus sounds a lot like humourous, and add that to the strange tingling we get when we hit our elbow, and you get the ‘funny bone’! The only problem is that it’s not actually the bone that we’re hurting. Bones don’t feel pain – nerves do, and in this case it is our ulnar nerve causing all the fuss.

Our ulnar nerve is named after the ulna bone that, along with the radius bone, makes up our forearm. Unlike most nerves, the ulnar nerve is unprotected by bone or muscle. In fact it’s the largest unprotected nerve in the body. This is why, even though we might hit other parts of our body just as frequently, we don’t hit such big nerves anywhere else, and the funny feeling is restricted to our ‘funny bone’.

So we’ve covered why the ulnar nerve hurts, but why then, you might ask, is it in such a stupidly exposed place? Well, unfortunately, that’s the way evolution goes – it doesn’t make us perfect, just good enough to survive. That’s why we are all born with a pointless tailbone, and why emus can’t walk backwards. As long as we’re still alive, evolution has done it’s job!



Filed under The human body

76 responses to “Why does my funny bone feel so funny?

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