The hand, wrist and elbow are all intricate joints. Their bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons work together to allow easy movement and function. Regardless of your age or occupation, your hands and arms are probably the most used parts of your body.
As you may imagine, hand and upper extremity injuries can have a substantial impact on quality of life. Whether it’s a fracture, arthritis, or carpal tunnel disease, these (and other) conditions can affect activities such as gripping objects and typing, which are typical parts of daily life. Our hand and upper extremity specialists can help restore function and get you back to living to the fullest. Learn more below.
ANATOMY OF THE HAND, WRIST AND ELBOW
The hand, wrist and elbow are all intricate, complex and vital parts of the body. They are made up of nerves, muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones that work together to grip items, and to bend and move the arm. Correct functioning is necessary for a living a normal, healthy life. Understanding proper hand anatomy can help us take better care of these important parts of the body.
BONES IN THE HAND, WRIST AND ELBOW
There are a total of 27 bones in the hand.
The fingers are made up of three parts—the proximal phalanges (base of the fingers), intermediate phalanges, and distal phalanges (which form the fingertips). The thumb consists only of a proximal and distal phalanx. There is no middle part. The phalanges connect to the metacarpal bones of the hand.
There are five metacarpal bones in the hand—each is associated with a digit.
The metacarpal bones then connect to the carpals. Eight carpal bones make up the wrist, and these bones are organized into two rows. The distal row contains the trapezium, trapezoid, capitate and hamate, and it connects the carpals to the metacarpals. The proximal row, made up of the scaphoid, lunate, triquetral, and pisiform, connects to the bones of the forearm.
The radius and ulna are the bones of the forearm. The ulna extends from the pinkie finger side of the wrist to the elbow, and the radius goes from the thumb side of the wrist to the elbow. The humerus, the large bone that makes the upper arm, meets the other two at the elbow.
These three bones help form two joints which complete the anatomy of the elbow. These joints are the humeroradial joint, where the radius and humerus join to straighten and bend the arm, and the proximal radioulnar joint, where the ulna and radius meet to allow rotation of the lower arm.
Flexible and tough ligaments hold together the two joints. The ligaments of the elbow are integral in keeping the joints connected and stopping elbow injuries which may cause elbow pain. The elbow ligaments consist of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL), the Radial Collateral Ligament, and the Annular Ligament.
MUSCLES IN THE HAND, WRIST AND ELBOW
The muscles intertwined with the forearm and hand bones are responsible for moving the hand and fingers. The muscles of the hand include:
- Interossei muscles, which allow us to spread our fingers and move them together
- Hypothenar muscles, found on the small finger side of the hand
- Thenar muscles, found at the base of the thumb
- Lumbricals, which allow the fingers to straighten.
There are additional muscles in the hand as well, which make up the thumb.
In the upper arm, the bicep and tricep muscles help straighten and bend the arm from the joint of the elbow. These muscles are connected to the bones by the biceps and triceps tendons. The biceps tendon helps bend the joint, while the triceps tendon helps straighten the joint.
NERVES IN THE HAND, WRIST AND ELBOW
The three major nerves that run from the arm into the hand are the ulnar, radial, and median nerves. The nerves are responsible for contracting and moving specific muscles and also give us sensations of touching something. The nerves are also responsible for feeling pain, heat or cold.
COMMON HAND/WRIST/ELBOW CONDITIONS
- Arthritis of the hand
- Boutonniere deformity
- Bursitis of the elbow
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Cubital tunnel syndrome (Ulnar nerve entrapment)
- De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
- Dislocation/subluxation of elbow joints
- Dislocation/subluxation of hand/wrist joints
- Distal biceps/triceps tendon injuries
- Dupuytren’s contracture
- Fractures of the elbow
- Fractures of the hand
- Fractures of the wrist
- Ganglion cysts
- Growth plate injuries of the elbow
- Hand lacerations
- Hyperextension injuries of the elbow
- Lateral epicondylitis (“tennis elbow”)
- Mallet finger
- Medial apophysitis (“pitchers elbow”)
- OCD of the elbow
- Osteoarthritis of the elbow
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Rupture of tendons
- Sprains and strains of the wrist
- Synovitis and tenosynovitis
- Tendon/nerve lacerations
- Thumb Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) injury
- Trigger finger
- Ulnar collateral ligament injury of the elbow
COMMON TREATMENTS FOR HAND/WRIST/ELBOW CONDITIONS
- Arthroscopy of wrist
- Carpal tunnel release
- Cortisone (Steroid) Injections
- Cubital tunnel release
- De Quervain’s release surgery
- Distal biceps repair
- Dupuytren’s realease (Fasciectomy)
- Excision of hand tumors/ganglion cysts
- Finger felon drainage
- Joint fusion surgery (arthrodesis) for the hand/wrist
- Repair UCL tear of the thumb
- Surgical treatment of hand/wrist fractures
- Surgical treatment of elbow/forearm fractures
- Tendon, nerve, or artery repair
- Trigger finger release
- Ulnar collateral ligament repair
All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Please consult a healthcare professional for medical advice.