What is the Anatomy of the Hand?

Nicole Long

The anatomy of the hand consists of various features on the surface and interior of the hand. This includes bones, joints, nerves, and tendons. Individual aspects of the anatomy of the hand, such as the fingertips, also have specific structures worth noting when discussing the anatomy of the hand.

A model of a human hand.
A model of a human hand.

Surface features of the hand include various creases and segments. Creases include the distal palmar crease that arises near the index finger and continues to the ulnar border, opposite the thumb. The proximal palmar crease lies directly below the distal palmar crease. Segments include the small, ring, middle and index fingers, and the thumb.

The bones of the hand include metacarpals and phalanges.
The bones of the hand include metacarpals and phalanges.

Phalanges are the different bones of the fingers and thumb. Distal phalanges are located at the tip of the finger, the middle phalanges are in the center, and the proximal phalanges are the part of the finger closest to the palm. The thumb does not have a middle phalange, and instead has only a distal phalange and proximal phalange.

Other bones of the hand make up the palm and the area adjoining the wrist. Metacarpals are the main bones of the hand. They rest below the proximal phalanges. Some of the additional bones of the hand that make up the base of the hand closest to the wrist include the hamate, pisiform, lunate, trapezoid, and scaphoid.

Joints help provide the hand with movement and allow humans to grasp objects and perform other daily tasks. The joints of the fingers include the distal interphalangeal, proximal interphalangeal, and the metacarpophalangeal joint, which joins the proximal phalanges to the metacarpals. Specifically, the joint that hinges the thumb is the carpometacarpal, also referred to as the basilar joint.

Various nerves are also included in the anatomy of the hand. These nerves provide skin with sense of touch and the ability to feel pain, often from sensations such as heat and cold. Some examples include the ulnar nerve, radial nerve, and the digital nerve.

The fingertips have specific anatomical features. This includes the nail plate, nail fold, and lunula. Tendons which help the fingertip bend include the insertion extensor tendon, which runs along the top of the finger, and the insertion flexor tendon, which runs along the palm side of the fingertip. These tendons connect the distal and middle phalanges.

Various arteries and muscles also make up the anatomy of the hand. Arteries include the deep palmar, radial, and superficial ulnar arteries. Muscles in the hand include the adductor pollicis, interosseous, and lumbrical.

The carpometacarpal is the joint that hinges the thumb.
The carpometacarpal is the joint that hinges the thumb.

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Discussion Comments


@Fa5t3r - Typing is actually not that great for hands compared with other things you could be doing, so I hope you are taking care of them. It's not the fingers so much as the fact that the wrists have to bend in a strange way to fit onto a keyboard and it can lead to a lot of problems if you aren't careful.


@bythewell - It is a very intricate mechanism. I think you can tell a lot about a person from their hands, even if you don't ascribe to palmology (which is when people use hand anatomy to tell a person's future).

I remember my father had very rough, calloused hands, to the point where they felt almost like roughly carved wood, because he had done so much physical work in his life. And I used to have an extremely prominent callous on my finger from writing with a pen, although it's gone down somewhat now because I type a lot more than I hand write these days.

I imagine most people would recognize someone with their own career from the different ways their hands have been remade over the years to suit it.


I'm one of those people who is often fascinated with their own hand. I know that sounds strange, but the anatomy of the hand is just so interesting and elegant and there are so many parts to look at. I guess it's something that I do when I'm bored, but I've heard of people in prison who would have the same fascination.

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