December 21, 2020/Orthopaedics

13 Strange and Interesting Facts About Your Bones

Plus ways to keep bones healthy and strong

A person pointing to an X-ray of a bone on their tablet

Did you know you lose bones over time? Ever thought about which bones are longest and which ones are the shortest or wonder how do bones heal? Orthopaedic surgeon Kim Stearns, MD, shares curious and amazing facts about your bones and tips on keeping bones healthy.

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1. Why you lose some bones

It’s strange to think about — you wonder how this could possibly happen since they’re covered by your skin? You’re born with about 300 but end up with just 206. Many bones, like those in your skull, fuse together as you grow.

2. What makes you grow

As long as growth plates (at the end of long bones in your arms and legs) stay open, you grow. The plates close in the late teens for boys and within two years of starting periods for girls.

3. How to keep your bones healthy

Your bones gain in density until you turn 30. Then density declines unless you get enough exercise, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin D from the foods you eat. What makes healthy bones their healthiest is providing them with the nutrients they need and getting exercise — even daily walks.

4. How broken bones heal

The process can differ based on what kind of break occurred. Most breaks are healable, and blood vessels form in the area almost immediately after you break it to help the healing process begin. Within 21 days, collagen forms to harden and hold the broken pieces in place. The damaged surfaces knit together to form new bone — and often the new bone is stronger than the original one.

5. Your skeleton has many jobs

It moves you. It protects your brain, heart and lungs. It manufactures blood cells. And it stores and regulates minerals to help your entire system function.

6. Your longest and shortest bones

Your femur, or thigh bone, is longest. The stirrup-shaped stapes in your middle ear (measuring only 0.11 inches) is shortest.

7. Where you have the most bones

The 54 bones in your hand, fingers and wrists allow you to write, use a smartphone and play piano.

8. Bone is living tissue

The collagen in bone constantly replenishes itself. So about every 7 years, you have a new skeleton.

9. Your teeth are part of your skeleton, too

They contain calcium and minerals like bones. But they lack collagen, which gives bones flexibility and strength.

10. The special job of a woman’s skeleton

Men and women’s skeletons look surprisingly alike. But the shape, size and angle of a woman’s pelvis are specially geared for childbirth.

11. Some joints don’t move

Your bones come together at the joints. Some (like your knee joint) move a lot. Others (like the joints in your cranium) don’t move at all.

12. Why do joints creak?

Muscles and ligaments support your joints, and cartilage helps to cushion them. When cartilage wears out, arthritis occurs.

13. What’s a funny bone, anyway?

It’s not even a bone. It’s your ulnar nerve, which runs inside your elbow. Hitting it triggers a surprisingly tingling, prickly pain.

“Your bones and your skeleton are truly amazing,” Dr. Stearns says. “How they grow, repair themselves and keep your entire body positioned as you move through your life makes it so important that you do your best to keep them healthy. Making sure you eat well and exercise as often as you can will help ensure they support you as long as you need them to,” she says.

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