Friday, January 20, 2006

My uvula trick

Drumroll please. You are about to witness my most popular anatomical party trick. In fact, years from now, it will likely be the only thing that my former students remember about me.


The image above shows my uvula (better known as "that thing dangling in the back of your mouth") in its relaxed, more-or-less normal configuration. Now, watch what happens when I tighten up my soft palate...



It's pointing straight forward like a little pistol. Impressive, eh? I've met only one other person who could do it. It appears to be a congenital anomaly, not a trait you can develop through practice.

Anatomically, the uvula is basically an extension of the soft palate. Using my lesser known uvula trick -- touching my uvula with the tip of my tongue -- I've confirmed that the uvula is indeed remarkably soft. Like the soft palate, it even has its own named muscle: the musculus uvulae, which shortens the uvula when it contracts.

Functionally, I doubt the uvula serves any important purpose, but I could be wrong. A popular anatomy text book says that the uvula "assists in closing the nasopharynx during swallowing." This makes me wonder if people without uvulas are more likely to have milk come out their nose when they laugh. It's a testable hypothesis, since there are, in fact, a number of people who have their uvulas removed surgically as a treatment for excessive snoring or sleep apnea (e.g. laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty). Anyone have some good anecdotal evidence?

59 Comments:

At 1/20/2006 10:48 AM, Blogger NathanGWright said...

I want to see a photo of you touching your uvula with your tongue :)

 
At 1/21/2006 8:44 PM, Blogger Brad said...

I'll see what I can do.

8-D

 
At 4/05/2006 12:00 AM, Blogger Nicole said...

You seem a little deviated in that "relaxed" photo. Is that just an artifact of your uvula resting on your tongue? Or are we looking at a possible weakness of the nerve? Just wondering.
Stumbled across your site via The Underwear Drawer. Nice stuff.

 
At 4/05/2006 8:49 AM, Blogger Brad said...

Good eye! Yes, in its relaxed state, my uvula does indeed deviate slightly to the right. I don't think it's a neurological problem, just a little developmental asymmetry. Kind of like my left foot, which is a half size shorter than my right...

 
At 4/09/2006 2:43 AM, Blogger Cara said...

Hey, nice to see others out there who can do tricks with their uvulas. Question though did you mean you could only touch the tip of your tongue to the front of it?

 
At 4/09/2006 5:45 AM, Blogger Brad said...

Cara: Yes, with the tip of my tongue, I can touch the front and tip of my uvula, but not the back of it. Unfortunately I can't take a good picture of this trick because the tongue obscures the view.

 
At 6/22/2006 8:46 PM, Blogger jen said...

I have always taught that the uvula triggers the gagging reflex- that is why the bitter taste is placed on the back of the tongue close to the uvula- then is something poisonous is ingested it has a good chance of not entering the body.

 
At 6/28/2006 8:35 AM, Blogger Darren said...

I have actually had a UP3 (Uvulopalatopharngoplasty) due to my sleep apnea. The procedure involves the removal of my uvula, my tonsils, my adenoids and a portion of my soft palate.

Here is what I can tell you about it:
1. I cannot even *fake* the snoring sound without those parts in my throat any longer.
2. It does not make me any more likely to have food or other liquids enter my nasal cavity.
3. It does, however, make normal nasal drainage into my esophagus cumbersome. As a result, I regularly have to clear plegm from the ridge at the top of what is left of my soft palate -- not very pleasant, especially for anyone around me!

No milk out of my nose, though. Also, jen, my gagging reflex is completely intact -- so no role in the gag reflex either.

Honestly, I do not miss my uvula, but it does make me somewhat of an oddity for anyone that looks in my mouth!

 
At 8/13/2006 5:38 PM, Blogger Linda said...

Hello...but did the surgery cure your sleep apnea? No more CPAP macine?
thanks!

 
At 8/13/2006 5:39 PM, Blogger Linda said...

I meant machine!

 
At 11/12/2006 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I happen to have an extremely long and flexible tongue and am capable of reaching around my uvula with it to touch the tonsils (or whatever) behind it.
So far, this apparently hasn't lead to any infections or anything. Who knows... they say tonsils filter out bacteria and stuff...maybe my tongue trick has actually made my tonsils more bacteria resistant and has improved my health!

No one I know is capable of doing this.

 
At 11/27/2006 3:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I Can Touch it With My Tongue And Make Mine Stick Out Like You Did With Yours ^_^ woot woot

 
At 12/06/2006 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I can't do what you do, I can touch the back of my uvula with the back of my tongue. I can also stick my tongue up behind my soft palate and touch my adenoids (although like a previous commenter I question the health of this).

 
At 11/18/2007 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I can also touch my tongue to the back of my mouth I can get it behind my tonsils and up into the adenoids. Never knew whether or not other people could do it too, never really considered it till lately, and googled it, which is when this came up.

 
At 12/28/2007 7:10 PM, Blogger HannahIsAPalendrome said...

I can touch the tip of my tongue way far back too. I thought everyone could touch their tonsils until just the other day. I also was told I have an extremely large tongue, which doesn't help my speech impediment. I have a "forward thrust" which means that I swallow backwards...so food pushes out of my throat rather than in. Apparently I choked a lot when I was little haha I figured that this impediment which I only found out about in high school upon asking my mom why everyone asks me if I have a lisp when I can CLEARLY pronounce my s's. :] So yea..I googled it though upon friends; requests to see if I'm the only living person who can self tonsil hockey, and I have thus discovered I am not alone! What a marvelous feeling...

 
At 1/28/2008 11:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah : what've can do is stick my tounge all the way up my throat and touch the insides of my nose also reach inall directions without gagging

 
At 2/11/2008 6:10 PM, Anonymous kfazz said...

i thought i was alone! i'm also teh only person i know who can touch their own tonsils, i can encircle them too, though the left is harder to reach than the right. and i can touch the nasal passages at teh top-back of my mouth. i may or may not be able to touch my uvula.

 
At 5/01/2008 11:45 PM, Blogger bbkmomma said...

Wow this is so cool, I too can touch my tonsils, adenoids, and nasal passages with my tongue. We should start a web page!

 
At 5/11/2008 12:16 AM, Blogger Rory said...

I just recently was starting to do this to help with some sinus issues I had, then I was sticking my tongue higher and further up my sinus cavity until I scared myself 'cuz I could feel the inside of my nostrils and asked my friends if they could do it or if I was the only one. No one had ever tried it and I totally freaked them out. I googled this trick and was glad to find other people who had tried it. It kind of hurts!

 
At 6/03/2008 9:47 AM, Anonymous Ryan said...

wow, me too, i didn't know anyone could do this, i can get my tongue up the back of my nose and even my nostrils!!

 
At 6/20/2008 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, all you people have entirely too much time on your hands! Ick!

 
At 7/25/2008 3:39 AM, Blogger Preternatural said...

The gag reflex has a lot more levels and complexity than a simple lump of flesh and includes a strong psychological element. Having worked with sword swallowers and experimented myself I can attest to how difficult it is to overcome.


-Aaron Zilch
www.swingshiftsideshow.com

 
At 9/23/2008 7:01 PM, Blogger Abbi said...

I can touch mine with my tongue too, also can get it behind it on my own. If i push my tongue with my finger i can touch where like my nasal passage opening thing is.

I've been looking for people who can!

 
At 9/25/2008 4:45 AM, Blogger carolyn said...

someone should totally make a webpage! i can touch everything back there too, but i've never met anyone else who could.

 
At 10/03/2008 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

even i can touch those round circly things as well. i can even touch the inside of the nasal tub. if you think your tongue is wrong, take your tongue out and try to touch your nose.

 
At 10/03/2008 4:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

#long not wrong. sorry

 
At 11/15/2008 11:07 PM, Anonymous michelle p said...

oh my goodness! thank you people! I thought i was some kind of freak! I finally told my best friend about being able to touch my nasil passage with my tongue and I was very curious if anyone else could.
Someone really should start a web page!
Has anyone ever felt around their nasal passage while sick? Does it feel weird?
I also do question the healthiness of this...But still I love you guys for talking about this!

 
At 11/16/2008 2:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yea, when I'm sick it tends to be slimier from mucus, and I can feel the swollenness from pressure build up. Gross..and probs unhealthy haha

 
At 3/23/2009 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LISTEN UP ~ I would like to really add some interesting tidbit to this. Did you know that in Yoga, the ancient masters stuff I am talking here, they do what is called Kechari Mudra ~ some even cut the "frenum" (the tendon under the tongue that keeps it tethered to the floor of your mouth) - so that they can reach their tongue behind the throat, up to the nasal cavities, and then beyond that to excite the nervous system.

See here about Kechari Mudra:
http://www.aypsite.org/108.html

and here, for diagrams showing each stage:
http://www.aypsite.org/kechari_image1.html

Wild huh.

 
At 4/16/2009 11:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter has two uvulas, a trait she inherited from her father. Supposedly is very rare to have two.

 
At 6/17/2009 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think more people are actually capable of this trick.It's just not all of us are so bored that were brought down to this level. If I can ever get back home to Hi. I'll have a life again and not have to stumble onto this wierd web sites. Roses

 
At 7/12/2009 1:13 PM, Anonymous kitt said...

i have a bit of an oddity myself. i have been seeing an ent, an he plans on doin surgery for a deviated septum, and also to remove my tonsils. so he had a ct scan of my sinuses done... and they found, there is a tooth in my sinus cavity!!

 
At 8/26/2009 7:18 PM, Anonymous Jordan said...

I was born without a lingual frenulum, which allows me to stick my tongue up inside the nasal cavity and down the throat a little ways. Unfortunately, this limits my ability to gleek, which I have been trying to do for so long with no success. lol

 
At 12/17/2009 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my sister has no uvula and she cant speak well. may be uvula helps in speech and yes food comes out thru her nose that is if shaken or if she tries 2 talk...she eats and drinks in a pattern which i think prevents food from entering the nose

 
At 1/28/2010 6:09 PM, Blogger gothic3515 said...

It does have a purpose. It helps with swallowing. Most people that I've heard of with no uvula have a hard time because food can go down the pharynx to quickly and even through there nose. An interesting fact that I've heard and have seen is a person with two uvulas! There is a kid with one in my class and our class was disgussing if it was a genetic mutation or something else. hope this helped x_x

 
At 2/15/2010 2:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha.. me too. got here via google like everyone else. i can touch my tongue to my uvula, tonsils, nasal cavity. it's particularly handy for clearing our food particles that get stuck in my tonsils (which taste awful, yuk!), and for clearing out the dried mucus stuck on the other side of the roof of my mouth while I'm sick.. yeah, gross - but good for clearing your nose out.

never got any infections doing this - i'm 40.

and i, too, had problems saying ssss when i was little.

only one uvula though. :)

 
At 6/07/2010 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha ha I can touch the back of my throat and tonsils with my tongue and I also thought everyone could. Weird....

 
At 6/07/2010 7:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Makes you wonder how many people can actually do it

 
At 10/24/2010 3:47 PM, Anonymous GG said...

I've been able to take my tongue back up into my Nasal cavity and can touch the bone separating the nostrils and can touch anything located inside of the entire Nasal cavity and do it very well, also tonsils too (I can open the little opening in my tonsils and clean the things out with my tongue) Can do the nasal Cavity. Been able to do it from second grade and it's so easy for me and there is no pain doing it. Comes in handy sometimes. Feels realy weird up there, the soft area on top inside the nose almost feels like a Brain would look, it's really curvy and stuff. gg_mathena@yahoo.com

 
At 1/25/2011 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is sorta shocking reading all of this. I've been able to do this and clear my throat/nasal passages out with my tongue for years, it sort of sucks because I have a bad habit of doing it without realizing it...like a nervous habit. No one knows what I'm doing obviously, but my throat extends out and looks odd while I do it. I think there may be negative health effects of doing this, like depriving the esophagus of enough mucous or something strange like that. Anyway, I've been trying my best to stop doing this altogether.

 
At 2/14/2011 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just barely learned how to do this. I think its really creepy that alot of things you people are saying is what happens to me. Everyone tells me I have a rather large tongue. I had to take a speech class to help my S's. I don 't know if this a coincidence or not but it's really WEIRD.

 
At 3/09/2011 6:08 PM, Blogger EZHILL said...

I was searching this tongue "trick" because I found that my son can make his tongue seemingly disapear up behind his soft palate into his sinus cavity. I was concerned about health problems, i.e. sleep apnea, snoring, etc... Since none have expressed any here regarding this I am assuming all is well with him...btw...cool trick.

 
At 3/14/2011 12:16 PM, Blogger Abba's Black Swan said...

Antibiotic: I have come to the conclusion that I have food allergies, After eating something that my body rejects, I've noticed the next morning I wake with a painful swallow, my uvula is swollen and dripping with phlegm.
VERY PAINFUL,, sipping a hot cup of real lemon with real cayenne pepper tea is the best.

 
At 5/13/2011 10:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha I thought i was the only one :) I have a pretty long tongue and I got my adnoids removed when I was alot younger, plus on top of that I don't have a very tight cord-thing on the bottom of the tongue that holds it to your jaw..( ha don't know what its called.) so i think thats probably why i can do it. I happened to show my best friend a while back and she ended up telling a bunch of people in my school about how I could "stick my tongue down my throat". I ended up freaking a lot of kids out. embarassing... my advice is don't go around showing everybody on the street most people will think your mutated or just crazy. Even though during class I find myself doing it and end up looking like a human frog because my throat bulges out.

another thing tho, i can too reach my toungue in to the back of my throat and clean out gunk and stuff esp when I wake up in the morning. but it seems like I am getting a lot of mucus in my tonsels and throat when I swallow it. so I looked it up online because i recently started getting tonsil stones (uuggh totally disgusting!) and i think they might be caused by the abnormal amount of mucus build up on the tonsils. so about the whole hygiene/health problems thing? it might end up giving you tonsil stones or being more susceptible to infection but it might also just depend on the person.

 
At 10/08/2011 12:52 PM, Blogger Wynter Graves said...

I am so glad I found this site. For the longest time I thought I was the only on who could touch my adenoids, and nasal passages and all that! I am so glad I am not the only one!I used to freak out cause when I would feel up there if something felt different I could not ask hey if you feel up there does it feel like this so on and so forth! We should forreal start our on website/chat community or something! I know I am hypochondriac and that was one of my biggest problems was feeling up there and feeling like I had no one to talk to about it! But now I realize I do (:

 
At 10/27/2011 9:48 PM, Blogger hunter258 said...

haha i thought i was the only one also!! i can move my tongue around in the nasal cavities and i dont have that little tendon thing to hold the tongue so i can swallow my tongue down my throat but i dont do that often. i also have a 3.6in tongue and the world record is 3.7. and i also can lick my elbow and kiss it can anyone else?

 
At 11/01/2011 7:48 PM, Blogger Wynter Graves said...

Hunter258 we need to like email eachother because there is so many questions i have about what it feels like up there that i can not ask anyone cus noone knows!!! email me at billy.bob_cutie@yahoo.com like i forreal need to be able to talk to someone about this!!!(: and u can lick ur elbow?? i cant do all that!

 
At 12/09/2011 3:05 PM, Blogger codystout24 said...

I can touch all around and behind my uvula with my toungue. i can also make my uvula dissapear and go into the roof of my mouth. wierd huh

 
At 12/19/2011 9:35 PM, Blogger Wynter Graves said...

That is awesome will u please email me at wyntergraves@gmail.com I have hypochondria that mainly is because of me being able to feel up there with my tongie an I need other answers from ppl who cam do this to calm my self down lol so if so tht would be great(:

 
At 5/18/2012 2:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi I can touch my tongue on my uvula, and all around my tonsils, can also feel a big hole near my left tonsil, where my tongue keeps going to our of habit I think, when I was 16 or so I remember coughing up lots of tonsil stones, and it left a big hole there which totally freaked me out.

Has anyone else had anything similar?

Have always thought I was the only one in the world ghat could lick their own tonsils.

 
At 7/05/2012 2:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also have the ability to reach my tongue into my sinus cavity, and touch my tonsils as well. I used to get sinus infections often, and would clean out the gunk (brown, hard mucous, sometimes with red (blood?) parts. It's gross, it looks like a metroid). I try to get in the habit of not clearing it if the mucous is normal, and when it's dirty or seems infected I use Listerine or something to clean my tongue. I would love to hear about the medical benefits/drawbacks to this.
Justinmartinfill@gmail.com

 
At 8/23/2012 3:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can do that as well

 
At 9/01/2012 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am able to stick my tongue into my nasal cavity also, touch the bone, adenoids, tonsils, etc. so many people think its cool and practically gag themselves trying to do it. I saw it in a Ripleys believe it or not book that my brother bought for me just because he knew I could do It too. I also have a friend I just met who was shocked because he too can do it. I found out I could do it when I was 12. I was eating and laughed causing my food to go up my nose. Without even thinking I shoved my tongue up and dug it out haha. I've been doing it ever since. I recently had my tonsils and adenoids removed due to an extreme case of tonsil stones and I now have plenty of room to roam around back there haha!

 
At 3/10/2013 8:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can do that too!! :))))

 
At 3/25/2013 4:06 PM, Anonymous linguischtick said...

The uvula has a function in the phonology some languages. It serves as a place of articulation for stop consonants (in Inuktitut or Arabic for example), fricative consonants (in some varieties of German and French), nasal consonant (Japanese I think), and other types. We don't use any uvular consonants in English though, and in general they aren't super common.

Here's a map of the world's language based on whether or not they use uvular consonants: http://wals.info/feature/6A (click the "show map") button.

 
At 7/10/2014 1:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome, i'm not the only one! I've been able to stick my tongue into my nasal cavity for many years now. there's that almost spongy tissue at the top of the throat, then the separation of the nostrils, which have soft ball-like structures that kinda hurt to push on at the entrance. Not sure how safe it is either, but when i'm sick, it seems to be handy that i can send my tongue in there to clean it out. Does anyone ever find little pieces of food, or whatever lodged into small holes in the tonsils?

 
At 7/26/2014 1:22 PM, Blogger cc man jr said...

I can make my uvula bounce off the back of my throat also when I am doing this and I talk I make a warbling sound I'm 12 I started when I was 5 or 6

 
At 8/19/2014 6:36 AM, Blogger Allykat said...

Oh my god I'm not the only one?! I have always been able to stick my tongue behind my soft palate, touch my tonsils, clear it out when mucus-y etc, touch my adenoids and put my tongue into the separation of the nostrils (it tickles and sometimes makes me want to sneeze). I came upon this post because I was trying to find out what the mysterious structures actually are that I'm touching with my tongue because I can only feel it not see it... So this clears up the mystery! When I was a kid I used to think that the "soft ball-like structures" in the separation of the nostrils meant I had diptheria and they would just get bigger and bigger until I couldn't breathe anymore and Mum didn't understand when I tried to explain what I could feel in my throat </3

 
At 12/02/2014 11:58 PM, Blogger casey brinegar said...

Does anyone know if doing this out of habit causes ringing in ears or water behind ear drum?

 

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