This is the real reason it hurts so much when you hit your funny bone

Though we cannot predict and prevent disasters in our life with any accuracy, it would also hold true that some people are more accident prone than others.

We've all got a friend who is forever bumping into things, tripping over invisible obstacles or else saying the wrong thing, at the wrong time, to the wrong person.

Of course, accidents come in a variety of forms; for example drunken blunders, or stubbing one's toe in a mad rush - and the severity of our hapless actions varies wildly.

Stubbing one's toe is undoubtedly an excruciating undertaking, and one that will lead you to utter curse words you probably didn't even realise you knew, but, nine times out of ten, it isn't the worst thing that could happen to you on a day of accident-prone blundering.

It is, however, a common occurrence that is needlessly painful; much like the bafflingly excruciating occasion that is hitting your 'funny bone' - you know, that part of your elbow that hurts with such bizarre and alarming intensity whenever you so much as tap it.

Human elbow joint pain Credit: Getty

There must, mustn't there, be a solid scientific reason behind this level of pain from such a seemingly innocuous act?

Well, as it turns out, there actually is! No longer will you have to wonder, through tears of pain and anger, why tapping the wrong part of your elbow starts off a chain reaction of such utter agony.

Essentially, the ulnar nerve is the largest unprotected nerve in the human body; it begins in the spine and travels down the shoulder and arm, culminating in the little finger and ring finger. As the BBC explains;

"As the bundle of neurons travels down your arm, layers of bone and muscle offer protection as it sends and receives signals to and from the muscles of the forearm and the hand."

Man wincing in pain and flexing his elbow Credit: Getty

However, problems arise when the ulnar nerve passes the elbow, where it must travel behind, " a knob of the humerus called the medial epicondyle and through a small, 4mm-long channel called the cubital tunnel".

At this point, the nerve is between skin and bone, without much in the way of protection. As a result, when you hit your arm at a specific angle, you're squashing the nerve against the medial epicondyle, which is when that horrible painful tingling feeling that we all associate with knocking our funny bone.

Is it reassuring to know that there's a logical scientific explanation behind such a bizarre feeling of pain? I'm not sure, but at least next time when someone asks you why you have suddenly gasped in agony for no apparent reason while clutching your elbow, you can reply, "I've just squashed a nerve against the medial epicondyle" and they can nod sagely in response, fully aware of the unfair discomfort you are experiencing.

H/T: BBC