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
SEP 16, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 16, 2018
If You Thought T. Rex Was Big, Then Watch This
Dinosaur-themed Hollywood movies have hyped up Tyrannosaurus Rex, making it seem like the king of all dinosaurs. But realistically, T. Rex was quite small...
SEP 21, 2018
Videos
SEP 21, 2018
How Artificial Sweeteners Impact the Body
Sugar alternatives may be low in calories, but they are probably not without consequence....
SEP 26, 2018
Videos
SEP 26, 2018
Why do leaves change color in the fall?
We know that deciduous trees drop their leaves every winter in order to avoid wasting precious resources on keeping them alive during the long, hard, cold ...
OCT 03, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 03, 2018
These Weird Fish Live in Some of the Deepest Parts of the Ocean
While animal researchers are reasonably well-rounded about the types of species residing at mild depths, we still have a lot to learn about what inhabits t...
OCT 11, 2018
Videos
OCT 11, 2018
An Inexpensive Kit Teaches Kids About Molecular Biology
Biology is advancing at a rapid pace. Students will be ready for those advances if they can learn about cutting-edge concepts at an early age....
OCT 16, 2018
Videos
OCT 16, 2018
Methane regulations for oil and gas could soon be reduced
The EPA has proposed loosening requirements for testing and repairing methane leaks in drilling operations for oil and gas w...
Loading Comments...