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Anatomy of the Hand and Finger Joints

The human hand is a marvel of evolution, a complex and dexterous structure that allows us to perform a wide range of tasks from delicate manipulations to powerful gripping. Central to this versatility are the numerous joints within the hand and fingers. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the intricate anatomy of the hand and finger joints, exploring their structure, function and clinical relevance.

Overview of Hand and Finger Anatomy

The hand is a remarkable tool comprising bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves that work seamlessly to provide both fine motor control and robust gripping strength. To understand the anatomy of hand and finger joints, let’s break it down into its key components.

Bones of the Hand

The human hand consists of 27 bones divided into three groups:

  1. Carpal Bones (Wrist): These eight small irregularly shaped bones form the wrist’s foundation. They are arranged in two rows: the proximal row (scaphoid, lunate, triquetrum and pisiform) and the distal row (trapezium, trapezoid, capitate and hamate).
  2. Metacarpal Bones (Palm): There are five metacarpal bones one for each digit (thumb to little finger). They extend from the carpals to the bases of the fingers.
  3. Phalanges (Fingers): Each finger, except the thumb consists of three phalanges: the proximal phalanx, the middle phalanx and the distal phalanx. The thumb has only two phalanges: the proximal and distal.

Joints of the Hand

The hand contains various types of joints, each with its unique structure and function:

  1. Carpometacarpal (CMC) Joints: These are located between the distal row of carpal bones and the metacarpal bones. The thumb’s CMC joint is a saddle joint allowing a wide range of motion.
  2. Metacarpophalangeal (MCP) Joints: These joints connect the metacarpal bones to the proximal phalanges. They are condyloid (ellipsoid) joints enabling flexion and extension.
  3. Proximal Interphalangeal (PIP) Joints: These are situated between the proximal and middle phalanges and are hinge joints allowing primarily flexion and extension.
  4. Distal Interphalangeal (DIP) Joints: Located between the middle and distal phalanges, the DIP joints are also hinge joints providing flexion and extension.
  5. Interphalangeal (IP) Joint of the Thumb: The thumb has a unique IP joint which allows for a wide range of motion and is crucial for thumb opposition.

Muscles and Tendons

The hand is equipped with an intricate network of muscles and tendons that enable movement. The muscles responsible for hand and finger movement are divided into intrinsic and extrinsic muscles:

  1. Intrinsic Muscles: These muscles originate and insert within the hand itself. They control fine motor movements such as precision grips and fine manipulations.
  2. Extrinsic Muscles: These muscles have their origins outside the hand, typically in the forearm and control gross movements and grip strength.

The tendons of these muscles attach to the bones and provide the necessary force for hand and finger movements. The most well-known of these tendons is the extensor tendon on the back of the hand. Responsible for extending the fingers and wrist and the flexor tendons on the palm side responsible for bending the fingers.


Ligaments are tough fibrous bands that connect bone to bone providing stability to the joints. In the hand, ligaments are essential for maintaining joint integrity and preventing excessive movement. Some critical ligaments in the hand include:

  1. Collateral Ligaments: These ligaments are found on either side of the MCP, PIP and DIP joints and help prevent sideways (lateral) movement of the fingers.
  2. Volar Plate: Located on the palm side of the MCP and PIP joints the volar plate is a strong ligament that prevents hyperextension (bending backward) of the fingers.
  3. Interosseous Ligaments: These ligaments interconnect the carpal bones stabilizing the wrist joint.


The hand is richly innervate receiving signals from the brain and sending feedback about touch, temperature and pain. The primary nerves of the hand include:

  1. Median Nerve: This nerve runs through the carpal tunnel and provides sensation to the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger. It also controls some of the intrinsic muscles of the thumb.
  2. Ulnar Nerve: The ulnar nerve supplies sensation to the little finger and half of the ring finger. It also controls some intrinsic hand muscles.
  3. Radial Nerve: The radial nerve innervates the back of the hand and controls the extensor muscles.

These nerves play a vital role in hand function and coordination.

Function of Hand and Finger Joints

Understanding the anatomy of the hand and finger joints is essential for appreciating their function. The hand’s primary functions include:

  1. Gripping and Manipulation: The hand’s intricate joint system allows for various gripping styles from power grips (used for holding heavy objects) to precision grips (used for delicate tasks like writing or sewing).
  2. Fine Motor Control: Precise finger movements are essential for tasks that require fine motor skills such as playing musical instruments, typing or painting.
  3. Sensory Perception: The hands network of nerves provides a high degree of sensitivity to touch and temperature.
  4. Communication: Hand gestures are a fundamental part of human communication. The hand’s joints enable us to express emotions and convey meaning.


The hand and finger joints are marvels of biomechanical engineering allowing us to perform a wide range of tasks. Understanding their anatomy is crucial for diagnosing and treating hand related conditions. Whether you are a healthcare professional a student of anatomy or simply interested in the intricacies of the human body, the hand and finger joints offer a fascinating area of study and appreciation.

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