Anatomical Description of the Human Hand

The hand is an incredibly intricate and versatile part of the human body, consisting of numerous bones, muscles, ligaments, and joints that work together to provide strength, dexterity, and fine motor control. With 27 bones, including the carpals, metacarpals, and phalanges, the hand allows us to perform a wide range of tasks, from simple grasping to intricate manipulation.

The muscles of the hand, both extrinsic and intrinsic, provide the power and precision necessary for various movements. Ligaments and fascial compartments add stability and structure to the hand, while the different joints allow for flexibility and mobility.

The hand’s complex structure allows it to perform a wide range of tasks, from gross movements like gripping to precise tasks like writing or playing a musical instrument. Conditions that can affect the hand include carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, fractures, and tendonitis. Understanding the anatomy and function of the hand is vital for diagnosing and treating hand pathologies and for promoting optimal hand health and functionality.


The hand is composed of 27 bones:

  1. Carpals: These are eight small bones that make up the wrist, organized in two rows of four.
  2. Metacarpals: These are five long bones that form the framework of the palm.
  3. Phalanges: There are 14 of these bones in the fingers – each finger has three (proximal, middle, and distal), except for the thumb, which has only two (proximal and distal).


The muscles of the hand are divided into extrinsic and intrinsic groups:

  1. Extrinsic muscles: These originate in the forearm and include flexors and extensors that bend and straighten the wrist and fingers.
  2. Intrinsic muscles: These are located within the hand itself and are responsible for fine motor functions. They include the thenar muscles (in the thumb), hypothenar muscles (in the little finger), and interossei and lumbricals (in the palm and fingers).


There are numerous ligaments in the hand, providing stability to its many joints. These include:

  1. Collateral ligaments: These are located on either side of each finger and thumb joint, limiting sideways movement.
  2. Volar plate: This is a thick ligament preventing hyperextension of the finger joints.
  3. Transverse carpal ligament: This spans the carpal bones on the palm side, forming the roof of the carpal tunnel.

Nerves: The hand is innervated by three main nerves: the median, ulnar, and radial nerves. These nerves control the muscles of the hand and provide sensation to the skin.

Blood Supply: The hand is supplied with blood by the radial and ulnar arteries and their branches.

Skin and Nails: The skin on the palm of the hand is thick and hairless, with numerous sweat glands and sensory nerve endings. The fingernails, made of a protein called keratin, protect the sensitive tips of the fingers.

Fascial Compartments: The hand is divided into several fascial compartments, including the thenar and hypothenar compartments (housing the muscles of the thumb and little finger), and the central compartment (containing the lumbricals, interossei, and adductor pollicis muscles).

Joint Anatomy: The hand contains several types of joints:

  1. Carpometacarpal joints: These connect the carpals to the metacarpals. The thumb’s carpometacarpal joint is especially mobile, allowing for the thumb’s opposability.
  2. Metacarpophalangeal joints (knuckles): These are condyloid joints between the metacarpals and the proximal phalanges, allowing for flexion, extension, adduction, abduction, and circumduction.
  3. Interphalangeal joints: These are hinge joints between the phalanges, allowing for flexion and extension.

Bursa Sacs: There are no significant bursae in the hand itself, although there are bursae in the wrist that can affect the function of the hand.

Kinesiology: The movements of the hand and fingers are numerous, allowing for a wide range of precise actions. They include:

  1. Flexion and extension: Bending and straightening the fingers and thumb.
  2. Abduction and adduction: Spreading the fingers apart and bringing them together.

Opposition: Touching the thumb to the tips of the other fingers, a key human ability.