Know the only free-floating bone in the human body & its significance

All bones in the human body are connected with each other to make the skeletal support system strong & complete. Our skeletal system not only provides structural support, it also protects internal organs, helps manufacture blood cells, stores and regulates minerals for proper functioning of the entire system.

Some gripping facts on human bones 

  • Human babies are born with nearly 300 tiny bones, which end up with 206 bones only because many bones fuse together as a part of growing up
  • For every seven years, you have a new skeleton (collagen in bone replenishes itself constantly)
  • A count of 54 bones in your hand including the wrist
  • A count of 26 bones only in the foot
  • Hyoid bone, a “special bone” is not connected with any other bone

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Yes, a captivating thing about this bone is, it is the only bone that doesn’t directly articulate (connect) with surrounding bones unlike other bony structures. 

Yes, it is indeed a “free-floating bone” connected to the neighbouring bones via muscular and ligamentous attachments called as hyoid bone.

Your tongue’s support

Hyoid bone, also known as lingual bone or tongue bone, is located in the front of your neck between the chin and the thyroid cartilage. It lies at the base of the mandible in the front and the third cervical vertebrae behind and serves as a structural anchor in the neck.

Hyoid bone


Functions of hyoid bone 

This bone plays an essential role in day to day vital functions. As you can spot in the above picture, it resembles a horseshoe, attaching itself only to the muscles of the floor of the mouth and tongue above, larynx below, pharynx and the epiglottis behind.

Hyoid plays a prominent role in chewing, swallowing, respiration, voice production and modulation and the bone coordinates the movements of the mouth, tongue, neck, and jaw by redirecting the contraction of the attached muscles.

Hyoid bone further keeps the upper airway open during sleep, and depression of the hyoid has been observed in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

It additionally serves as a surgical landmark when approaching the tongue base and the thyroglossal cysts.

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Medical & forensic significance of hyoid bone

Though being a fragile bone, fracture of hyoid bone is very rare. This is because it is well protected by the mandible and cervical spine. Any changes in shape of the bone or swelling or stiffness and fractures of the horseshoe bone may indicate any kind of inflicted trauma. Doctors & crime investigators take special interest in examining hyoid bone to rule out strangulation/foul play. 

During post-mortem of suicidal events, fractures of the hyoid bone plays a significant role in medico legal cases in distinguishing asphyxia (suffocation) death characteristically associated with strangulation and hanging.


All tongue movements, voice modulations, the swallowing, gulping down of food & liquids are anchored and facilitated by the U-shaped hyoid bone along with the surrounding muscles. 

Hence, even after being disconnected from all the other bones in the skeletal system, hyoid has its own place of being disjointed yet important!

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