All of the bones of the body can be broken down into five types: long, short, flat, irregular, and sesamoid.
- Long. Long bones are longer than they are wide and are the major bones of the limbs. Long bones grow more than the other classes of bone throughout childhood and so are responsible for the bulk of our height as adults. A hollow medullary cavity is found in the center of long bones and serves as a storage area for bone marrow. Examples of long bones include the femur, tibia, fibula, metatarsals, and phalanges.
- Short. Short bones are about as long as they are wide and are often cubed or round in shape. The carpal bones of the wrist and the tarsal bones of the foot are examples of short bones.
- Flat. Flat bones vary greatly in size and shape, but have the common feature of being very thin in one direction. Because they are thin, flat bones do not have a medullary cavity like the long bones. The frontal, parietal, and occipital bones of the cranium—along with the ribs and hip bones—are all examples of flat bones.
- Irregular. Irregular bones have a shape that does not fit the pattern of the long, short, or flat bones. The vertebrae, sacrum, and coccyx of the spine—as well as the sphenoid, ethmoid, and zygomatic bones of the skull—are all irregular bones.
- Sesamoid. The sesamoid bones are formed after birth inside of tendons that run across joints. Sesamoid bones grow to protect the tendon from stresses and strains at the joint and can help to give a mechanical advantage to muscles pulling on the tendon. The patella and the pisiform bone of the carpals are the only sesamoid bones that are counted as part of the 206 bones of the body. Other sesamoid bones can form in the joints of the hands and feet, but are not present in all people.