When You Can’t Get Enough Bone Facts

We had such a great response to our last bone facts blog, we decided to give you 13 more facts!

1) Want to tie your bones in a knot? Soak them overnight in hydrochloric acid (a 6% solution or stronger).

2) Your skull consists of 22 bones, yet has only one movable part – the mandible

3) Adults have 24 ribs (12 pairs), but about one in every 500 people has an extra rib, called a cervical rib. This rib, which grows from the base of the neck just above the collarbone, is not always fully formed — it’s sometimes just a thin strand of tissue fibres. Lumbar ribs (growing from the lumbar spine) also occur.

4) The oldest cancer ever discovered is that in a Neanderthal rib bone dating back 120,000 to 130,000 years. Although impossible to identify, the tumour could either be a Ewing’s sarcoma, or, more likely, a metastatic lesion. An ancient foot bone with an aggressive cancerous growth has also been discovered. It belongs to a bipedal homin, (a distant human relative) and is about 1.7 million years old. The oldest non-cancerous tumour was found in the vertebra of an Australopithecus sediba (a human ancestor), approx. 2 million years old.

5) Although bones are, pound for pound, stronger than some types of steel, they are not the hardest substance in the body – the enamel covering your teeth is stronger.

6) “Break” and “fracture” are interchangeable terms meaning the same thing: the bone is broken. There are, however, different types of fractures. In a complete break the bone breaks into two or more pieces; an incomplete break means the bone does not break all the way through; a compound fracture (or “open” fracture) occurs when a bone breaks through the skin; a simple fracture (or “closed” fracture) occurs when the bone breaks but there is no break in the skin.

7) The most common type of fracture in children is a “greenstick fracture”, a type of incomplete break that causes the bone to be bent without breaking into two.

8) Although the toe is the most common bone broken, the most common fractures presenting to Emergency Departments are those of the wrist, hand, or fingers. Remarkably, alcohol is often involved.

9) Perhaps the weirdest bone disease is Gorham’s Bone Disease (or massive osteolysis). Sometimes called The Disappearing Bone Disease, it is extremely rare, with only some 300 reported cases. The normal balance of bone turnover is upset, such that bone breakdown far exceeds bone regeneration. The absorbed bone is replaced by vascular and fibrous tissue. In a few cases, the disease has undergone spontaneous remission, with the disease itself disappearing.

10) The most common type of orthopaedic surgery (in developed countries) is arthroscopic surgery.

11) The only fully formed bones at birth are those of the middle ear (which is also true of fish! Arthur Dent would be impressed.)

12) All mammals have the same number of vertebrae in their neck – mice through to humans and giraffes all have seven cervical vertebra. In giraffes each vertebra can be up to 10cm long. For unknown but postulated evolutionary reasons, sloths and manatees are the exception to this rule.

13) Americans eat on average 18 acres of pizza a day. (OK, nothing to do with bones, but such a great trivia fact can’t be ignored.)

That’s it for bone facts this time, stick around for more to come.