Periosteum of Bone: Structure, Function and Location

Kelly Barkers, Virginia Rawls, Christianlly Cena
  • Author
    Kelly Barkers

    Kelly taught 7th grade science for 5 years and served as the Science Department Chair. She graduated from Cedar Crest College with a bachelor's degree in biology and a minor in health and wellness. While attending college, she was a peer tutor for Anatomy and Physiology.

  • Instructor
    Virginia Rawls

    Virginia has a master' degree in Education and a bachelors in Sports Medicine/athletic Training

  • Expert Contributor
    Christianlly Cena

    Christianlly has taught college Physics, Natural science, Earth science, and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is currently pursuing his doctorate degree.

In this lesson, learn what is periosteum. Learn about periosteum functions and its importance in human bone growth. See where can you find the periosteum. Updated: 10/27/2021

Table of Contents


What is Periosteum?

The skeletal system is found throughout the human body and enables humans to function and survive. Each bone in the human body is complex in its structure and design. Just like other tissues found within the body, bones are made up of cells and each specialized cell has a specific function. Periosteum is a type of connective tissue that is found on the surface of most bones. Some tendons of skeletal muscles may attach to the periosteum on the bone.

The structure of the periosteum has two distinct layers, meaning the two layers have their own structure and corresponding job.

  • The outer layer contains nerves as well as blood vessels to help supply the skeletal muscles and bones with nutrients in the blood.
  • The inner layer of the periosteum contains cells that grow bone tissue.

The periosteum is found on the surface of the bone. Notice how the nerves and blood vessels can travel towards the center of the bone.

Periosteum definition demonstarted in this cross section of bone

Where Can You Find the Periosteum?

Periosteum is found on most bones, but is not located on the surfaces of bones near a joint, such as the knee. Instead, the joint has articular cartilage, another type of connective tissue, to prevent bones from rubbing against each other. Additionally, the periosteum is slightly altered on the inner portion of the skull so that a membrane can connect to the bone to protect the brain.

Periosteum is not found on bones near a joint. Notice the articular cartilage that covers the femur (thigh bone) where it forms the knee joint.

Where can you find the periosteum? Not on the knee.

Besides the periosteum, most bones have additional layers. Starting with the outermost surface of the bone, the four main layers are:

  1. Periosteum
  2. Cortical or hard bone
  3. Cancellous or spongy bone
  4. Bone marrow

Therefore, the outer layer of the periosteum is found on the outermost layer of bone. The inner layer of periosteum is found under the outer layer but above the cortical or hard bone.

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Periosteum Function

We've explored the periosteum meaning, but what does the periosteum do? The following provides more details regarding the periosteum function, specifically the functions of the two periosteum layers.

Inner Layer

The inner layer of the periosteum is also known as the cambium layer or osteogenic layer. It is filled with osteoblasts which are bone cells that help with bone formation. New bone formation is at its highest while the fetus is developing in the uterus and during early childhood. This inner layer of periosteum is thickest at birth and thins over time. However, these osteoblasts do not stop after puberty. In fact, humans are continuously remodeling their bones. The entire skeleton is replaced about every 10 years.

Not only do osteoblasts help with bone growth but they also help with repair. For example, if someone has an injury and fractures a bone, the osteoblasts will start to form a layer over the crack in the bone. They will continue to patch the area while also depositing calcium and phosphorus to strengthen the new bone tissue.

Outer Layer

The outer layer of the periosteum is also known as the fibrous layer because it is made of a branching network of collagen. Collagen is a type of connective tissue that is strong and made from proteins. Due to its rigidity and durability, it has many other functions throughout the body. The outer layer of the periosteum also has nerve fibers which is why pain is felt when someone breaks or even bruises a bone.

Additionally, the outer layer has a large network of channels which allow blood vessels to travel into the inner bone. All cells, even cells in the bone, need to receive nutrients and remove waste. The blood in the vessels is able to flow through Volkmann canals, or channels in the outer layer, to provide precious nutrients and take away waste produced from the cells.

Periosteum Conditions

As with any part of the human body, the periosteum can encounter problems. Below is a list of some conditions that can affect the periosteum of the bones. Note, this table does not list all conditions. Furthermore, some conditions share similar symptoms which is why a medical professional should evaluate any bone pain or tenderness.

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Additional Activities

Periosteum: Word Scramble Activity

In this activity, you'll check your knowledge regarding the vital function of the periosteum in the skeletal system.


For this activity, study the scrambled letters and try to unscramble or rearrange the letters to form a word or phrase that fits the given clues. To do this, you must right-click and print this page. With a pencil and an eraser, neatly write your answers in the appropriate blank spaces in the clues.

Scrambled Words

  10. TONJSI


  1. The main __________ between the fibrous periosteum and the osteogenic periosteum is on how their cells are __________.
  2. The dense, non-vascular connective tissue that is usually found at the end of joints is called __________.
  3. The __________ is similar to the thin layer that lies between the egg and the shell of a hard-boiled egg.
  4. __________ __________ include several types of fibrous tissue that vary only in their density and cellular structure.
  5. The __________ contains cells that help in bone growth, maintenance, and repair.
  6. __________ __________ refer to those small channels that transmit blood from the periosteum into the bone.
  7. The __________ __________ in the outer layer helps attach the periosteum to the underlying bone.
  8. A __________ bone or cartilage can be repaired by the bone-forming cells called osteoblasts.
  9. Bone tissues require an adequate amount of __________ to perform their function.
  10. The remaining parts of the body that do not contain a periosteum are the hands, feet, and _____.

Answer Key

  1. Difference, Packed
  2. Cartilage
  3. Periosteum
  4. Connective Tissues
  5. Osteogenic Periosteum
  6. Volkmann Canals
  7. Fibrous Band
  8. Fractured
  9. Nutrients
  10. Joints
Frequently Asked Questions

What is periosteum in anatomy and physiology?

The periosteum is composed of two layers and is found on most surfaces of bones. The inner layer, or osteogenic layer, helps with bone model and remodel. The outer layer, or fibrous layer, is a strong network of collagen. Periosteum is not found near joints of the bones.

What is the periosteum and what does it do?

The periosteum is the outer most layer on most bones. This layer allows nerves and blood vessels to penetrate the inner bone as well as help grow and repair bones. Some tendons may even connect a muscle to this layer of bone.

What is periosteum made up of?

The outer layer of the periosteum is composed of a strong, elastic type connective tissue called collagen. The inner layer of the periosteum contains bone forming cells called osteoblasts.

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