NOV 01, 2016 01:34 PM PDT

What Does it Mean to Bump Your Funny Bone?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

We've probably all experienced that inexplicable tingling sensation after hitting our elbow the wrong way. Wise folks will tell you that you've hit the "funny bone." But there's nothing funny about it - the sensation is a prickly, reverberating ache that lasts for seconds to minutes. What causes this awkward feeling?

To begin with, the pain has nothing to do with any bone. Rather, the tingling sensation comes from trauma to the ulnar nerve in your elbow. This nerve is the largest unprotected nerve in the body - meaning there's no muscle around it. So, when you accidentally whack your elbow at the ulnar nerve, the trauma to the nerve temporarily impedes connection to the brain, which then results in the weird painful sensation. Of note this is similar to the "pins and needles" sensation when your legs fall asleep.

So why did the funny bone get its name if it's neither funny nor a bone? Some people say the name derives from the humerus bone along which the ulnar nerve runs. Other say the name directly reflects the inexplicable, funny, pain that comes after bumping it.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 05, 2018
Videos
NOV 05, 2018
The Mechanisms Underlying the Deadly Blow of the Mantis Shrimp
The mantis shrimp packs a powerful punch that can strike its enemies with one of the fastest moves in the animal kingdom....
NOV 05, 2018
Videos
NOV 05, 2018
How UV Rays Cause Aging and Skin Cancer
We know that UV rays can do damage to our DNA - but how?...
NOV 18, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 18, 2018
All About NASA's Plan to Drill Deeper Into Mars Than Ever Before
When NASA’s InSight lander arrives at Mars, it will land near the planet’s equator at Elysium Planitia. This location is flat, which is ideal f...
NOV 28, 2018
Videos
NOV 28, 2018
What critics think about the first gene-edited babies
Chinese scientist He Jiankui took advantage of the International Human Genome Editing Summit in Hong Kong to publicize the results of his Crispr-Cas9 trial...
DEC 09, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 09, 2018
After a Slight Delay, SpaceX's Christmas Delivery Arrives at the ISS
Three days after the official launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a SpaceX Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday with a sp...
DEC 12, 2018
Health & Medicine
DEC 12, 2018
Let it All Out - Swearing is Healthy for You
Lalochezia is an emotional relief obtained by spewing vulgar language, and science suggests that swearing regularly could be good for your overall health a...
Loading Comments...