As long as they are accurate and detailed, human skeleton models are useful educational tools in a variety of settings. Health care professionals, from physicians and surgeons to physiotherapists and chiropractors, can use a life-size skeleton to educate patients regarding their condition or demonstrate a proposed treatment. Students in any health-related field benefit from having access to an anatomical skeleton, as it provides valuable hands-on learning and visual prompts for anatomy and physiology classes.
These models are particularly useful for tactile learners memorizing the names and placement of all 206 human bones.
While every model resembles the human skeleton, there are significant differences that determine how useful a model is and what profession or learning environment it's best suited for. For example, models that show a slipped or herniated disc are useful for physicians and physiotherapists to demonstrate an injury and how they plan to treat a patient.
You can learn more about the human skeletal system and anatomical models here.
Best Musculature, Nerves & Arteries
Some, but not all, human skeleton models include various features related to musculature. Some, like Super Skeleton Model Sam, feature muscle insertions and origins on one side of the body, along with key nerve branches and the vertebral artery running down the spine.
Some skeleton models also have tendons and connective tissue, usually on the same side as the musculature. This addition lets users study multiple anatomical systems and observe firsthand how these systems work together.
3B Scientific's Super Human Skeleton, Sam, is anatomically accurate, articulated, and features muscles, nerves, and tendons. This anatomical skeleton model offers a comprehensive representation of multiple body systems. You must do some of the final assembly yourself, like fitting the tendons and ligaments onto the elbow joint, but the added detail and high degree of accuracy makes this model suitable for clinical learning and medical professionals.
Best Skeleton Model Construction
Whatever your budget, you want the most realistic skeleton model, and the best option is to choose a natural casting, or a model that's taken from a cast of real human remains. Needless to say, you don't find too many genuine human skeletons used as anatomical models today. With a natural casting, like those from Bone Clones, the end result shows the imperfections in the original bone, such as evidence of breaks, calcifications, striations, and other evidence of skeletal stress.
The skeleton model is usually constructed from hardened plastic or PVC, so it's long-lasting, durable, and easy to clean. For the most durable option, choose a skeleton with a solid bone structure.
This clinical-grade skeleton model from Bone Clones is exceptionally detailed and comes with a comprehensive osteological report. No numbering or color-coding means this piece isn't best-suited for lower-level educational settings and is better reserved for professionals and post-graduate study. The skull is a single piece, but a three-part cut skull can be substituted for an additional cost.
Best Skeleton with Numbered Bones
Some skeleton models, like the Axis Scientific painted human skeleton, have numbered bones. You usually get a bone guide with these models that contains the corresponding numbers and the bones to which they relate, which is helpful when trying to memorize names and locations. Not all skeletons have every bone numbered, however. Sometimes, a number will refer to a group of bones, like those of the foot, wrist or inner ear.
Axis Scientific's painted human skeleton doesn't have a fully flexible spine, but it does feature 150 muscles, along with tendons and connective tissue. This model is a good choice as an educational aid, with its painting and labeling and the presence of multiple anatomical systems.
When it comes to buying the right human skeleton model, the level and type of detail are the primary considerations. If a model isn't detailed enough or has the wrong type of detail, it's of very limited use. Therefore, it's crucial you establish what type of detail is essential before making your purchasing decision.
Number of Bones
It's highly unusual to find a plastic skeleton with 206 separate bones, but many of the more accurate models come close, with 200 bone pieces, with a few of the smaller ones, like the bones of the inner ear, which are fused together.
If you opt for a less-expensive skeleton with fewer bones, be sure to establish which bones on the model are missing or fused. If the skeleton is for display purposes only or for younger students, a model with fewer bones is likely perfectly acceptable. Look for these features:
The foramina are holes through which nerve bundles, veins, arteries, and other internal structures exit or pass. A precisely accurate skeleton model should include at least the main foramina, which consists of the foramina of the skull and intervertebral foramina. Other include vertebral, sacral, obturator, greater and lesser sciatic foramina.
Condyles are the rounded protrusions found on some bones. These small protuberances help form articulations with other bones, such as between the base of the skull and the first cervical vertebra or the knee, elbow, wrist and ankle joints.
In some skeleton models, these are either missing entirely, or they are exaggerated, which is fine if you are teaching younger students or demonstrating basic information to a patient. However, for teaching advanced anatomy, it's preferable to choose a skeleton with accurate condyles.
Specifications – the gender of the model, the weight, the materials used for the model – are important considerations. While these specs aren't necessarily deal breakers, if you're aiming for the most life-like skeleton model, you should take the following into account when making your purchase:
The vast majority of anatomical skeletons are male. Female skeletons tend to be smaller, with more delicate, less-pronounced features. The larger bones and more pronounced features of the male skeleton are better for teaching and display, generally speaking.
Specialist female skeletons are available for certain fields, such as anthropology and archaeology, where students must distinguish male and female remains, often from just portions of a skeleton.
Bone weight isn't necessarily a crucial factor, but if you're going for the most lifelike skeleton, appropriate bone weight enhances the learning experience and familiarizes students with the feel of human bones. The total weight of a real human skeleton is roughly 15 percent of the total body weight.
However good a skeleton looks, if it doesn't have the right type of functionality, it simply isn't that useful. These features influence how educational the human skeleton model is that you purchase:
An articulated skeleton is one that is fixed together to allow the same range of motion as a real skeleton. This lets users demonstrate or study how the skeletal system works. On a skeleton with musculature and connective tissue on one side of the body, a properly articulated skeleton demonstrates how body systems work in tandem.
You can get fixed skeletons that don't move on their stands, and you can get disarticulated models that have no connecting hardware and instead lay on a table or in a display case.
You can choose from several types of stands for your skeleton model. Some feature skull-mounted roller stands, which are suitable, unless you need to examine the skull in close detail.
Alternatively, you can choose a pelvic skeleton mount. These stands connect at the back of the pelvis and don't interfere with study, observation or examination. If you know you'll need to move your skeleton regularly, choose a model with casters and make sure it's easy to assemble and disassemble.
Unless you just enjoy the macabre, whichever skeleton you choose needs to have appropriate educational value, including:
Skeleton models that feature musculature, nerves, arteries, and connective tissue use color-coding to help you easily establish differences between the anatomical systems. Muscles tend to be a dark fleshy hue while veins and arteries are depicted in bright red and blue. Connective tissue, like ligaments, is usually a pale flesh or skin tone and nerves are generally represented by yellow. Some human skeleton models also color-code other structures like foramina and muscle origin and insertions.
Human skeleton models show us the basic mechanics of our species. A life-size skeleton is a valuable educational tool, whether it's introducing youngsters to the wonders of human anatomy, walking patients through a procedure or teaching medical students. The more life-like the skeleton model, the more engaging and rewarding the learning experience is.