Your hands and wrists are a complicated network of bones, muscles, nerves, connective tissue and blood vessels. Your hands and wrists help you interact with the world around you every day. Talk to a healthcare provider if you have hand or wrist pain, especially if it’s getting worse over time.
Your hand and wrist are complex parts of your body that let you touch and control objects.
They’re a complicated network of bones, muscles, nerves tendons and ligaments, blood vessels and parts of your lymphatic system.
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Your hand and wrist help you interact with the world around you. They’re probably the first body part that comes to mind when you think about your sense of touch.
They help you do everything throughout your day that involves touching, holding or using something with your fingers.
Your wrist is the joint at the end of your forearm. It’s the hinge between your arm and hand that lets you reposition your hand.
Your hand begins where your wrist ends. It includes your palm, fingers and thumb.
Your hand and wrist are structured to allow you to move, flex and rotate your wrist joint and to use your hand to grab and touch objects.
Your wrist acts like a pivot point that can move in almost any direction as you reach and flex your hand. Think about your hand and wrist like a crane game at an arcade. Your hand is the claw that grabs and holds prizes, and your wrist is the mechanical joint that lets the claw move up and down, and side to side.
The parts that make up your hand and wrist are layered upon each other to form a three-dimensional shape that gives them the ability to move and function.
Your hand and wrist are made of:
Bones provide the main structural support in your hand and wrist. They give them their shape and are the anchors other pieces are connected to.
There are 19 bones in each of your hands. They’re grouped together by their location and function:
Your wrist is a complex joint made of eight bones that are arranged into two rows.
The proximal row (on the back of your hand, closest to your forearm) includes the:
The distal row (on the underside of your wrist closest to your palm) includes the:
Your radius (the larger of the two bones in your forearm) forms a joint your scaphoid and lunate bones to form the part of your wrist that helps it move and rotate.
The carpal tunnel is a rounded space between your pisiform, hamate, scaphoid and trapezium. This space is a literal tunnel in your wrist that lets nine tendons, four ligaments and one nerve pass through it to reach the rest of your hand.
Your carpal tunnel is similar to the way that fiber optic cables are buried underground to deliver internet or cable TV service to your home.
Muscles are soft tissue made of stretchy fiber. Intrinsic muscles inside your hand work with extrinsic muscles near the outside of your hand and in your forearm to give your hand its strength and dexterity.
There are 34 muscles in each of your hands. Healthcare providers categorize them into groups, including:
Your muscles and all their possible movements perform two types of grip:
Your wrist shares muscles with your forearm. Their groups include:
Nerves control your muscles and help you feel and process sensations, including:
Three main nerves give your hand and wrist sensation:
All three of these nerves are connected to many branches of smaller nerves that spread out into your hand and wrist.
Tendons link your muscles to your bones. They’re like strong, flexible ropes. Your hand and wrist have two groups of tendons:
Ligaments are the other type of connective tissue in your hand. If tendons are like ropes, ligaments are more like thick rubber bands. Their main functions include:
There are lots of ligaments in your hand, including:
Ligaments in your wrist include:
Your hand and wrist get blood from two arteries. The radial artery runs along your radius (closer to your thumb). The ulnar artery runs along your ulna (closer to your pinkie finger). These arteries communicate with each other in “arches” that form in your hand. There’s a superficial and deep arch in your hand. Vessels branch off the arches and supply blood to your fingers.
Your lymphatic system is a network of tissue, vessels and organs that collect excess plasma from your bloodstream and redistribute it throughout your body. Tiny capillaries in your hand capture extra plasma from the blood vessels that supply your hand and wrist. They connect to bigger lymph nodes and vessels in your upper arm.
Many issues can cause hand or wrist pain.
Some of the most common conditions that affect your hand and wrist include:
One of the best ways to keep your hand and wrist healthy is to avoid overusing them. Any activity or job that makes you use them repeatedly can lead to a repetitive strain injury.
During sports or other physical activities:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your hands and wrists are some of the most complex parts of your body. Their ability to bend, move and flex helps you complete almost any task or motion you can think of. Hands and wrists are critical to most people’s daily routines.
Hand and wrist pain are very common, but don’t ignore them. If you’re feeling new pain (or if the pain is getting worse over time), visit your healthcare provider. They’ll help you address a small problem before it becomes a more serious issue.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/12/2023.
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