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What is a Funny Bone, Brain Freeze, and Why Do We Shake Hands?

Updated on November 12, 2015

'Brain Freeze'

"We just had a brain freeze” - why does it hurt so bad?

A brain freeze is your body’s way of putting on the brakes, telling you to slow down and take it slower. Drink those really cold slurpy’s slow and don’t eat your ice cream too fast.

What happens - you are changing the temperature in the back of the throat at the juncture of the internal carotid artery, which feeds blood to the brain, and the anterior cerebral artery, which is where brain tissue starts, or the roof of your mouth. The brain can’t actually feel pain despite its billions of neurons, but the pain associated with brain freeze is sensed by receptors in the outer covering of the brain where the two arteries meet. When the cold hits, it causes a dilation and contraction of these arteries and that’s the sensation that the brain is interpreting as pain. Much like a migraine headache, but lasting only about 30 seconds or less. You’re not alone, about one-third of the population is susceptible to this condition.

When you took that big icy gulp or that large bite of ice cream, some of it reached the roof of your mouth or the hard palate. Behind this palate lies a cluster of nerves, which act as a protective thermostat for your brain and is extremely sensitive to abrupt changes in temperature. Once that cold hit the ‘spenoplatine’ nerve, it sends out a warning to the other nerves in the cluster. Your brain has now been told to expect a major freeze and better get prepared. The pain is not by the blood vessels itself, but because of the warm blood, which forces the vessels to open, the nerves also contribute to this pain.

The pain receptors near the spenopalatine nerve cluster sense the freezing of the palate,

but the pain itself is in another area deeper in the skull.

This is why you feel brain freeze deep inside your head and not in the roof of your mouth.

The cure is to drink that icy slurpy slower and eat smaller bites of ice cream to avoid these brain freezes. Unlike a migraine this only lasts a very short time and can be completely avoided.

What is your ‘crazy or funny bone’ and why does it hurt?

Nothing is crazy about this. It refers to the ulnar nerve.

It runs across the rear of the boney projection at the back of the elbow all the way from the neck to the hand, where it innervates several muscles in the hand and forearm and ends in two branches - in the pinkie and half of the ring finger.

Because the nerve runs through a channel called the cubital tunnel and is only protected by skin and a little fat, this makes it vulnerable to any accidental bump or hit and is very painful and can produce a ‘funny’ tingling numbness and pain. This shoots through the areas where the nerve does its work, down the forearm and hand and into the ring and pinky fingers; because of this we feel a ‘funny’ or strange sometimes-tingling sensation.

It is neither funny nor crazy. When you hit your funny bone, it feels at the time, like the worst pain in the world. The slang term ‘funny bone’, maybe a pun. Because the nerve runs along the humerus, which sounds like “humorous” (HYOO-muh-rus) or funny.

Then, again, maybe the nerve got its nickname because of the funny or odd and tingling feeling you experience after you hit it.

Or maybe you have a better idea why we call it the funny bone?

When this ulnar nerve is obstructed, pinched or squeezed the result is the same quick whack to the funny bone and numbness, pain, tingling sensation happens. OUCH!

There is a condition that is caused by sleeping with the arm folded up. This can be a chronic pain causing a progressive condition and can result in muscle weakness in the forearm and hand. The pinkie and ring finger can curl up in a position called the ‘ulnar claw.” This condition can usually be helped with elbow splinting and the correction of aggravation postures, hand therapy or, in extreme cases, surgery, which provides more space for the nerve and reduces the amount of pressure on it.

Take care of your ‘funny’ bone, try not to hit it and don’t sleep with your arm folded up.

Have you ever wondered?

Why Do We Shake Hands?

People once were haunted by the many dangers, which threatened them. In a spirit of self-defense, people moved about well armed. Suspicion and stark fear are the source of the polite gesture of shaking hands. The exact origin is unclear where it started.

Meeting with a stranger aroused immediate suspicion and fear. Neither knew the other’s intention, but four things could happen.

  • Both....could turn and make their escape
  • Stand their ground
  • They could proceed on their way
  • Or...they could remain peaceful and perhaps become friends

To do that they first had to make sure that there was no possibility of attack. They laid down their weapons displaying empty palms. To be sure, and to prevent the other person from grabbing a sword, they firmly clasped hands.

Therefore - The hearty handshake, did not show friendship – but fear and distrust.

And furthermore - Nor did the customary use of the right hand originated by chance. It was a precaution to immobilize the other person’s weapon hand.

Herbert Spencer in ‘The Principles of Sociology’ said “Two Arabs meeting in the desert reached for the others hand to kiss”. However, it is an insult to have your hand kissed by another man – so they withdrew and ended up clasping the hand of the other – and the ‘handshake’ was born.

  • Perhaps the origin of the handshake comes from medieval Europe, where kings and knights would extend their hands to each other, showing that they did not possess concealed weapons and intended no harm. Most accept this origin of the handshake because it resembles our current handshake as a way to introduce ourselves to a person and open ourselves up to them.
  • The ancient Greeks used it as a welcoming sign of friendliness, hospitality and trust.
  • Eskimos don’t shake hands they rub noses. Why? It is a non-romantic form of greeting and serves the same purpose as shaking hands; often it’s the only exposed part of their body.

Goffmanesque’s approach to the act of shaking hands calls for focused interaction. He states: “encounters require openers or handshakes in order to show recognizing the person and establishing the end of the encounter”.

  • Another theory credited to Deirde Boden and Harvey Molotch, “Applies to the handshake and business in general with face-to-face interaction, which is still important today even with faxes, phone and email”. A person would be foolish to overlook the importance of the handshake. “There is a lot to be learned when you shake hands”. You could be judged on your handshake whether consciously or subconsciously - so make it count!
  • In America, over the course of the past two centuries, the importance of the handshake in the business world has declined from a once binding contract that pledged both your wealth and your honor, to little more than a business formality and tactical action. At one point in the banking industry, a person could lend and borrow money based on a handshake.
  • In the wholesale jewelry business, a handshake is still a binding contract.

Popular belief says the empty hand has no weapons. But now we say, “talk to the hand” while we whack you with the other and say, “my head isn’t listening”. Most teens understand this concept well.

The impulse to touch another person took different variations. For instance, hugs (which was often done in past times, to drive the assassins blade deeper), now means –

  • We love you

  • We miss you

  • We are happy to see you

  • Or a warm welcome

The next time you shake hands, pay attention.

Shaking hands means more than you think!


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