Anyone teaching, practicing or studying in the medical field knows what a nightmare anatomy and physiology classes can be. Memorizing all 206 bones and 650 muscles in the human body can be exhausting. Human skeleton models and other anatomy guides make teaching and learning the human body easier, especially for hands-on learners. The best examples of human skeleton models we found were Super Skeleton Sam, Fred the Flexible and the Life-Size Medical Anatomic Human Skeleton. For more, read our articles about skeletons and human anatomy models.
Different students and professionals will want skeletons that show different details. Look for a skeleton model that emphasizes features in your specialized field. For example, physical therapists and P.T. students may be more interested in articulated skeletons that show muscle insertions and origins. While chiropractors, pre-med and post-med, will want flexible skeletons with removable parts to show patients and study specific regions of the skeletons up close. For students without a specialization or general science teachers, it's best to find a simple, but detailed skeleton with at least nerves and arteries marked.
The most important feature in a human skeleton model is anatomical accuracy. The number of bones and correctly numbered parts are essential to a good lesson or study guide. Many anatomy models display hand-painted numbers on each bone that correspond with a bone key. It's rare to find a skeleton with all 206 bones, but you can typically come close at 200 bones.
Details are only second to accuracy when it comes to skeleton models. Muscle origins and insertions painted red and blue so you can find the insertions that move on the body. Arteries and nerves throughout the body aren't common, but you can typically find the vertebral artery, and nerve branches are marked up the spine with yellow and red rubber. You'll also want to look for finer details in the bone features like styloid processes, foramen in the skull, condyles that aren't over-exaggerated, tubercles to show where muscles begin and end.
While skeleton models can be cast from real bones, they are rarely made from real human remains. You'll typically find hard plastic skeletons made from PVC or durable material. Look for a skeleton with solid texture, especially if you plan to display it in a classroom or practice.
Moving and bending the skeleton model is the most helpful feature for educational purposes. You'll want a skeleton that has the same range of motion as a live human. It's important to have flexible arms and legs, for example, to show how muscles in your elbow or knee function. Other flexible parts like the spine can show students or patients how spinal discs work together and handle realistic damage. Some of the models we found had slipped discs or other flaws to show how an injury may look. Removable parts are also a standard feature in the best human skeleton models. Removable skulls, or at least a removable calvarium, allows you to point out foramen inside the skull and the skull floor.
To navigate through the skeletal system, you'll want some kind of atlas or guide to the 206 bones in a skeleton. Look for skeletons with hand-painted numbers labeling each bone. These numbers correspond to a key in the manual or bone guide. Other atlases may simply show a picture of a skeleton with labels drawn to each part. These keys are accurate, but may be slightly harder to find specific bones.
Most skeleton models are male, but the differences between male and female skeletons are subtle. Male skeletons make a better display specimen because of the pronounced features and larger bones. You can find smaller, desk-sized skeletons, but the standard classroom model stands about 69 inches, or 5 feet 9 inches. Weight is important, but not crucial. A typical skeleton makes up about 15 percent of a person's body weight. The taller the skeleton, the heavier it should be.
The best human skeleton models give us a peek inside our own body mechanics. For medical professionals who want a life-size example for their patients to pre-med students trying to brush up on their skeletal anatomy, human skeleton models have a range of educational uses.