As a kid, I didn’t believe that my bones were anything more than hard sticks and weird shapes that held my body frame together. Bones were the foundation of the body, like building blocks, I thought, that only served to hold me upright, otherwise I’d be a heap of skin and muscles on the floor. It wasn’t until I broke my arm at the age of ten that I instantly realized that bones are another living, feeling part of our bodies.
We talk a lot about the many muscles of the body and the ways in which different exercises create a multitude of movements in the body. But our muscles wouldn’t be any good without the bones they attach to! Our skeletal system is a remarkable, living part of our body that functions in many different ways. Here are a few interesting facts about bones!
- The skeletal system’s main functions include: supporting the body, protecting soft tissues, producing blood cells, storing minerals and fat, and permitting the body to move.
- We are born with about 300 bones, but by the time we are adults we only have about 206 bones! Why? Because some of our bones fuse together as we age through a process called ossification. As we grow into adulthood, the long bones of our body that once had epiphyseal (or growth) plates, which is an area of cartilage, harden into bone. Other bones may fuse together at earlier stages in life. Interestingly, the hand and wrist (a relatively small area of the whole body) take up 54 of the 206 bones in the body!
- We have one bone in the body that is considered a floating bone because it does not articulate, or create a joint with, any other bone. Can you guess where it is? It’s a small bone in your throat called the hyoid bone that is completely suspended by muscles and ligaments.
- Bones are constantly breaking down and rebuilding due to the amount of calcium in the blood. On the inside of our bones, in the medullary canal, specific cells break down bone to return minerals, including calcium, to the body for other important functions when there is too little calcium in the blood. Meanwhile, the outside of the bones have cells called osteoblasts that are constantly working to reform the bone by creating new bone cells. These osteoblasts create new bone when there is an excess of calcium in the blood. This process of breaking down and rebuilding is a continuous and important function of the bones for the whole body. It allows the body to regulate the amount of calcium within the body and is a critical process to keep in balance in order to prevent osteoporosis.
- Along with calcium, bones are like a warehouse that store fat and many other important minerals so they are available when your body needs them. These minerals are continuously being recycled through your bones-deposited and then taken out and moved through the bloodstream to get to other parts of your body where they are needed.
- Did you know that most of the red and white blood cells in our body were created inside of our bones? This is done by a special group of cells called stem cells that are found mostly in the bone marrow, which is the innermost layer of our bones. Every day 200 billion new red blood cells are made by the bone marrow, along with white blood cells and platelets. White blood cells survive anywhere from a few hours to a few days, platelets for about 10 days, and red blood cells for about 120 days. These cells must be constantly replaced by the bone marrow. If there is loss of blood or anemia or if the number of red blood cells decreases, the bone marrow may increase red blood cell production. Similarly, the bone marrow produces and releases more white blood cells in response to infections, and more platelets in response to bleeding. If a person experiences serious blood loss, yellow bone marrow can be activated and transformed into red bone marrow. Truly incredible!
As you can see, bones do a lot more than just hold us together! They help our bodies with many different processes and are quite an amazing part of our bodies and our health!