The Hyoid Bone: Part 2


hyoid boneIn the first hyoid post I covered certain functions of the hyoid – it supports the weight of the tongue, it aids in swallowing, and it allowed for the awakening of our ability to speak. It also acts as a central point connecting the whole upper body muscularly, and it can provide a launching pad for movements that involve the head neck and rib cage.

Let’s go through the muscles connecting the hyoid to the skeleton. The suprahyoid muscles, muscles above the hyoid, include digastric, stylohyoid, geniohyoid and the mylohyoid.  These muscles connect the hyoid bone to the jaw and head. Two of the muscles below the hyoid, the sternothyroid and the thyrohyoid connect the sternum to the hyoid via the thyroid cartilage. The other two muscles that reside below the hyoid bone, the sternohyoid, and the omohyoid connect the hyoid to the sternum of the ribcage and the scapula of the shoulder girdle.

This means that the whole upper body—head, jaw, rib cage and shoulder girdle are muscularly connected through the hyoid bone and this creates interesting possibilities when it comes to movement as well as speech. An interesting thing to note about the omohyoid muscle that connects the hyoid to the shoulder blade is that its job is to strap down the jugular vein. As a result of this there is a small tendon in the middle of the muscle that covers the vein. If it wasn’t there we would be in pain every time the jugular pulsed.

The hyoid is my favorite bone for two reasons. The first is that the vocal chords, or vocal ligaments, are situated directly above the hyoid bone running in a line from the front to the back. If the head is misaligned the hyoid is out of place. When the hyoid is out of its correct placement in the body our voice will be unable to resonate at its fullest. The opposite is true as well. If you can pull the head back into proper alignment, the voice will always be at most resonant and clear. And if your voice is at its most resonant you know that your posture has to be fairly good.

And for me the ability to get the head back where it wants to be can be facilitated by aligning the hyoid bone. When you get your hyoid to its proper place you will find your true voice. And the fact all of the structures of the upper body are literally connected to the hyoid means that an upper body that moves in harmony, moves through the hyoid bone.

One way to feel this is in the pose in yoga that is referred to as small cobra.

  • Lay on your belly with the hands on the floor by your chest.
  • Lift the head, neck and chest up off of the floor and try to feelwhat initiates the movement.
  • Unfortunately we often lift from the head and the rest of the upper body follows along.
  • Try doing it again, this time initiating from the hyoid bone. If you are successful the head, ribcage and shoulder girdle all move as one piece together as they come up off of the ground.

The hyoid bone and its successful use and alignment present us with amazing opportunities for postural health and function. I can’t repeat enough that if you know how your body is meant to work, you are much more likely to use it correctly.

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8 Comments
  1. I really appreciate your knowledge of anatomy and as a Yoga teacher I find this information invaluable. Currently I am personally experiencing a strange “clicking” or catch in my throat when I swallow. It is not painful but it is a little disturbing. I am certain my hyoid bone is misaligned, but I do not know if there is cause for alarm or not since I do not experience pain. I have scoliosis, but yoga has “cured” the back pain I experienced before yoga; however, I do have some lingering problems with my neck. I therefore avoid inversions like unsupported headstand, and frankly, do not often do even supported headstand. Shoulderstand also causes some neck issues so I usually avoid it as well. I have been practicing cobra in the manner you describe above and find it fabulous for myself and helpful for my students. Just curious what you think about this somehow “dislocated” hyoid bone I am noticing that clicks or clunks when I swallow. Again, no pain, no problems with eating or drinking, and no problems speaking. I thought is would go away in a day or two, but it has gone on for a couple of weeks. I do neck rolls and shoulder rolls to see if I can “fix” it, but no success yet. However, if I turn my head a certain way (chin up and to the right) and swallow it does not do the clicking sound. I generally have tightness on the left side of my neck. Any thoughts? Thank you, Vicki Knight

    • Hi Vicki, THanks for your kind words about the blog. To get the don’t out of the way– I wouldn’t do head or shoulderstand of any kind until this resolves. Nor would I do neck rolls. I’m not into those for anybody. While a lack of pain is good, that shouldn’t be a reason not to figure out what is going on. Pain is weird. Have you been to a chiropractor, more specifically, a network chiropractor? Why do you think this started and can you pinpoint exactly when. While I don’t think the hyoid is “dislocated”. Any of your vertebrase could be out leading to the torque that is leading to the clicking. So the question would be when and why did a vertebrea go out? Keep me posted.

      • Thank you for your speedy reply. I appreciate your thoughts and agree now with you that my cervical spine is out of alignment. I am pretty sure this began shortly after a rather lengthy stay in supported headstand. I am fairly good at keeping the weight out of my neck and in my forearms instead, but I remember getting fatigued in that 5 minute headstand so I came out of it. I will stop headstands and shoulderstands and neck rolls and see it this clears up…and then go to a chiropractor if it does not. I agree with you that pain is weird…I think I lived with pain for so long having scoliosis I am rather desensitized to it. But luckily I do not get headaches either…one chiropractor said she could not believe I don’t get headaches when she saw x-rays of my spine and neck specifially. So thank you for your thoughts! Namaste’

  2. THank you for your information. I had a Sistrunk procedure for a thyroglossal duct cyst last year and it included cutting the middle of the hyoid bone and tongue attachments. Am I imagining things or does one’s singing voice change with the removal of part of this bone. THank you.

  3. I just had the Sistrunk procedure for a thyroglossal duct cyst 5 days ago. This involved removing the mid portion of my hyoid bone. My incision line is well healed; no pain, swelling or signs of infection in that area. There is however, pain where the mid hyoid bone was removed and it’s affecting my swallowing and speech – very painful despite Norco 5/325mg 3 times/day and I have intermittent voice hoarseness; no swelling. I was told by my ENT physician (who also performed this procedure) that the hyoid bone will not affect phonation or head movement. Do you recommend any exercises for a quicker recovery and pain relief?

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