EN | DE | PT Contact How to study Login Register

Lumbrical muscles of the hand: want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

Sign up for your free Kenhub account today and join over 1,230,998 successful anatomy students.

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Lumbrical muscles of the hand

The lumbrical muscles (lumbricidae - Latin = earthworm) are four short hand muscles located in the metacarpus deep to the palmar fascia. These muscles are specially interesting because they do not attach to bone. Instead, they attach to the tendon sheats, originating from the tendons of flexor digitorum profundus and inserting to the extensor expansions.

These muscles flex the fingers at the metacarpophalangeal joints, and extend them at the interphalangeal joints. Note that lumbricals of the foot have the similar actions on the toes.

Key facts about the lumbrical muscles of the hand
Origin Radial aspects of tendons of flexor digitorum profundus
Insertion Dorsal aponeurosis of digits 2-5
Innervation

Lumbricals 1-2: Median nerve (C8, T1)

Lumbricals 3-4: Ulnar nerve (C8-T1)

Function

Metacarpophalangeal joints 2-5: Finger flexion;

Interphalangeal joints 2-5: Finger extension

In this article, we're going to discuss the insertion, origin, innervation, and function of these muscles.

Anatomy and supply

Origin

One feature of these muscles is that they originate from tendons instead of bony structures, making their origin surfaces quite moveable. Usually, they arise from the radial side of the tendons of the flexor digitorum profundus. In addition, the third and fourth lumbrical muscles have a second head attached to the ulnar side of the adjacent tendon.

Want an easy and effective way to revise the origins, insertions, innervations and functions of the lumbrical muscles? Check out our upper extremity muscle anatomy chart. 

Insertion

Distally, their insertion tendons attach to the dorsal aponeurosis of the respective finger.

Innervation

  • The first and second lumbricals are supplied by the median nerve (C8-Th1). 
  • The third and fourth are supplied by the ulnar nerve (C8-Th1).

Function and action

The lumbricals fulfill movements of the second to the fifth finger. Their contraction leads to flexion in the metacarpophalangeal joints (MCP) and extension in both the proximal (PIP) and distal interphalangeal joints (DIP). The reason for the opposite actions is that the tendons cross the MCP on the palmar side but distally insert at the dorsal side of the finger. These combined movements support a strong hand grip (e.g. holding a pen).

Recommended video: Lumbrical muscles of the hand
Attachments, innervation and function of the lumbrical muscles of the hand.

Lumbrical-plus finger

When the tendons of the flexor digitorum profundus detach distal from the origin surfaces of the lumbricals an interesting phenomenon occurs: when trying to close the fist, the fingers strangely extend instead.

Pathophysiology and mechanism

After detachment of the distal tendons, the lumbricals now serve as the new insertion surface of the flexor digitorum profundus. This means, even though the person consciously activates the flexor muscle, he/she actually moves the lumbricals instead. And since the flexor digitorum profundus and the lumbricals are antagonists in the PIP and DIP the intended fist closure paradoxically leads to an extension of the fingers. This oddity is clinically referred to as the lumbrical-plus finger and can occur after injuries or amputations.

Lumbrical muscles of the hand: want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

Sign up for your free Kenhub account today and join over 1,230,998 successful anatomy students.

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Show references

References:

  • M. Schünke/E. Schulte/U. Schumacher: Prometheus – LernAtlas der Anatomie – Allgemeine Anatomie und Bewegungssystem, 2nd edition, Thieme Verlag (2007), p. 316-317
  • J. E. Muscolino: The muscular system manual – The skeletal muscles of the human body, 2nd edition, Elsevier Mosby (2005), p. 680-682
  • R. Palti/M. Vigler: Anatomy and function of lumbrical muscles, Hand Clinics (2012), Issue 28(1), p. 13-17
  • H. Schmidt/U. Lanz: Chirurgische Anatomie der Hand, 2nd edition, Thieme Verlag (2003), p. 147

Author:

  • Achudhan Karunaharamoorthy

Illustrators:

  • Lumbrical muscles of the hand - Yousun Koh 
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

Related diagrams and images

Continue your learning

Read more articles

Show 9 more articles

Watch videos

Show 2 more videos

Take a quiz

Browse atlas

Well done!

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!