EN | DE | PT Contact How to study Login Register

Upper Extremity Anatomy - 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 960,586 successful anatomy students.

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

Upper Extremity Anatomy

Upper extremity - anterior view

Ever wondered what the differences are between us humans and animals regarding the upper limb? One of them is certainly our ability to high five each other when we ace our anatomy exam. Of course, there are many more functions and movements that our upper extremity offers to us, and this is all due to its perfect anatomy that is designed to allow a large degree of mobility.

This topic page will briefly discuss the upper extremity anatomy in order to introduce you to the main regions of the upper limb, which includes: the shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm and hand. 

Shoulder Anatomy

The shoulder is where the upper limb attaches to the trunk. Its most important part is the glenohumeral joint; formed by the humerus, scapula and clavicle. The humerus anatomy is a must-know before any discussion on the glenohumeral joint, and you can learn everything about it in our article and video tutorial:

Humerus
Humerus

The shoulder joint is reinforced with two groups of muscles, superficial and deep. Superficial muscles include the deltoid and the trapezius, whereas the deep group contains the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis (rotator cuff) muscles.
Find out everything about shoulder anatomy through our fun and engaging educational content:

Shoulder (Glenohumeral) Joint
Shoulder joint
Muscles of the shoulder
Functions of the shoulder muscles
Shoulder (glenohumeral) joint

Arm Anatomy

The arm is the area between the shoulder and the elbow. Depending on whether you’re a gym lover or not, it may be more or less important to you. But anatomically, all parts of the arm are a must-know. There is only one bone within the arm, and that is the humerus. It is the pillar on which all the other soft tissue structures rely. The muscles are grouped into anterior and posterior compartments by the septa that attach to the humerus. The anterior compartment contains the coracobrachialis, brachialis and biceps brachii muscles. While the posterior compartment contains only one muscle, the triceps brachii.

Coracobrachialis muscle
Brachialis muscle
Biceps brachii muscle
Triceps brachii muscle
Brachialis muscle level
Coracobrachialis muscle level
Biceps brachii muscle level

Last but not least, is the neurovascular compartment. Every single structure of the arm is innervated by the brachial plexus, a network of nerves that originate from the C5-T1 spinal nerves. Arterial blood comes from the brachial artery, which arborizes on its way down the arm giving many branches for the supply of the structures of the arm.

Brachial plexus
Brachial plexus

Elbow Anatomy

The elbow is another “bridge” within the upper limb that attaches the arm and the forearm. Three bones participate in the elbow joint: the humerus, the radius and the ulna. They are shaped and attached in such a way that allows the unique forearm movement of pronation and supination. In order to understand these movements, you can find everything you need to know about elbow anatomy through this video tutorial and quiz:

Elbow joint
Elbow joint

The anterior of the elbow is called the cubital fossa, in which, besides the joint, are found important nerves and vessels intended for the supply of both the forearm and hand. 

Recommended video: Cubital fossa
Anatomy, location and structures found on the cubital fossa.

Forearm Muscles

Here comes the part that most students consider the hardest. The twenty muscles, and two bones (radius and ulna), of the forearm.

Recommended video: Radius and Ulna
Overview of the bones that define the forearm - radius and ulna.

But don’t worry, the muscles are grouped into anterior and posterior compartments, with the anterior compartment containing mostly flexors, and the posterior, extensors. Further, each compartment has layers. The anterior compartment contains superficial, intermediate and deep layers, whilst the posterior compartment contains superficial and deep layers. We know that reading about twenty muscles, two compartments and five layers can be monotonous, so we have designed these video tutorials and quizzes to make this topic more interesting, and your life easier!

Anterior compartment forearm muscles
Posterior compartment of forearm muscles
Oberflächliche Flexoren des Unterarms
Tiefe Flexoren des Unterarms
Superficial extensors of the forearm
Deep extensors of the forearm
Flexors of the forearm
Extensors of the forearm

Arterial supply of the forearm is through the branches of the radial and ulnar arteries, whereas innervation comes from the radial, ulnar and median nerves.

Hand Anatomy

The hand is probably the finest product of human evolution from the aspect of our body mechanics. The hand anatomy enables us various movements, with the spectrum ranging from rough movements, such as smashing a mosquito, to the finest movements like playing the guitar, drawing, or writing calligraphically.

To understand how this works, let’s start with the basic parts of the hand, which are:

  • the wrist (carpus)
  • the metacarpus
  • the digits

The bony background of the hand is very interesting. The carpus contains 8 bones, the metacarpus are comprised of 5, and the digits have 15 bones. The bones within the carpus are small, irregularly shaped, and have such curious names that you may like to choose one for your instagram account: scaphoid, lunate, triquetrum, pisiform, trapezium, trapezoid, capitate and hamate bones.

Metacarpal bones, on the other hand, are easier to remember since they are named metacarpal I to V, with metacarpal I being the ‘root’ for the thumb and metacarpal V for the pinky finger. Finally the digits are supported with three consecutively attached bones called the proximal, middle and distal phalanges, all specifically named by adding I-V at the end. 

When it comes to the muscles, they are called the intrinsic muscles of the hand. Meaning they both originate and insert within the hand. This is in contrast to the ‘extrinsic’ forearm muscles that originate from the forearm, and insert into the hand. The intrinsic muscles of the hand are the: palmaris brevis, interossei (palmar and dorsal), adductor pollicis, thenar, hypothenar and lumbrical muscles. You can learn everything about them in our engaging video tutorials and then test yourself in our quiz:

Muscles of the hand
Palmar interossei muscles
Dorsal interossei muscles of the hand
Adductor pollicis muscle
Thenar muscles
Hypothenar muscles
Lumbrical muscles of the hand
Muscles of the hand

As far as the neurovasculature is concerned, both arteries and nerves are continuations from the neurovascular elements of the forearm. To master this topic, watch this video tutorial and take the following quiz:

Neurovasculature of the hand
Neurovasculature of the hand

Video Tutorials For The Upper Extremity Anatomy

Humerus
Shoulder joint
Muscles of the shoulder
Functions of the shoulder muscles
Coracobrachialis muscle
Brachialis muscle
Biceps brachii muscle
Triceps brachii muscle
Brachial plexus
Cubital fossa
Radius and Ulna
Anterior compartment forearm muscles
Posterior compartment of forearm muscles
Oberflächliche Flexoren des Unterarms
Tiefe Flexoren des Unterarms
Superficial extensors of the forearm
Deep extensors of the forearm
Muscles of the hand
Palmar interossei muscles
Dorsal interossei muscles of the hand
Adductor pollicis muscle
Thenar muscles
Hypothenar muscles
Lumbrical muscles of the hand
Neurovasculature of the hand
Deltoid muscle
Trapezius muscle
Subscapularis muscle
Teres minor muscle
Wrist and hand level
Bones of the Hand
Carpal bones
Metacarpal bones
Metacarpal muscles
Phalanges of the Hand
Radial nerve
Median nerve
Main nerves of the upper extremity
Humerus and Scapula
Muscles of Arm and Shoulder
Muscles of the Arm
Rotator cuff muscles
Radial Forearm Muscles
Neurovasculature of upper arm
Neurovasculature of elbow and forearm

Upper Extremity Quizzes

Shoulder (glenohumeral) joint
Brachialis muscle level
Coracobrachialis muscle level
Biceps brachii muscle level
Brachial plexus
Elbow joint
Elbow joint sagittal view
Flexors of the forearm
Extensors of the forearm
Muscles of the hand
Neurovasculature of the hand
Deltoid muscle level
Coracobrachialis muscle level
Biceps brachii muscle level
Brachialis muscle level
Neurovasculature of the arm and the shoulder
Muscles of the arm and the shoulder
Olecranon fossa level
Radius and ulna
Bones of the wrist and hand
Carpal bones
Metacarpal bones
Phalanges of the hand

Upper Extremity Anatomy - 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 960,586 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

Article, Review, Layout:

  • Jana Vaskovic
  • Dimitrios Mytilinaios
  • Nicola McLaren
  • Adrian Rad

Illustrators:

  • Upper extremity - anterior view - Irina Münstermann
© 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 15 more articles
Well done!

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!

Create your free account.
Start learning anatomy in less than 60 seconds.