Why Your Elbow Tingles When You Hit It (Hint: It’s Not Your Funny Bone!)

Spoiler alert: Your funny bone isn’t actually a bone.

We all know that hitting your funny bone isn’t funny at all. It hurts! Still, if you’ve ever knocked your elbow at the wrong angle and felt a dull, prickly pain, you know it’s because you’ve hit your funny bone. Right?

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Wrong! Funny story: Your funny bone isn’t actually a bone. According to health experts, the unpleasant sensation actually comes from your ulnar nerve, a string of sensitive tissue that runs down your arm and stops at your elbow joint. Its job is to send signals and sensations from your fourth and fifth fingers up to your brain. The lack of padding in that area, however, leaves the ulnar nerve vulnerable the occasional bang or bump—though it thankfully doesn’t damage anything.

Where did the term “funny bone” come from, then? Turns out, no one really knows where it got its moniker. Some think that it’s a clever play on the upper arm bone (between your elbow and shoulder) called the humerus. Others say that the name evolved from the strange tingling you feel when you hit it. Regardless, one thing is clear: The funny bone is the only bone in your body that you can’t break!

Now that we’ve debunked that myth, check out the 50+ health myths that aren’t actually true.

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Brooke Nelson
Brooke Nelson is a researcher at PBS FRONTLINE in Boston, Massachusetts, and writes regularly about travel, health, and culture news for Reader’s Digest. Previously she was a staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her articles have also appeared on MSN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance, among other sites. She earned a BA in international relations from Hendrix College. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeTNelson.