Anatomy word of the month: Tensor veli palatini

restaurant-menu-1Sounds like a mouth-watering selection from an Italian restaurant menu! Actually, these terms are not far removed from this suggestion since they describe a muscle in your palate. Terms describing muscles are from the Latin and identify them by location, shape, size, action or attachments. Tensor means “to stretch” or make tense or tighten. A velum is a “veil, curtain, or awning” and palatini refers to palate.Therefore, the tensor veli palatini (there are a pair of them) stretches and flattens the soft palate against the back of the throat helping seal off the throat from the nasal cavity during swallowing. A closely related muscle is the levator veli palatini. Can you guess what this muscle’s action would be? The same stem is found in the common word elevator. It’s action is “to raise” the palate assisting the tensor in closing off your nasal cavity when swallowing.

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