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Bones of the wrist and hand

Learning objectives

Working through this study unit will allow you to:

  1. Understand how the bones of the hand are divided into groups.
  2. Describe the basic anatomical features of each bone.
  3. Name the major joints of the wrist and hand.

Watch videos

The wrist is the region that connects the forearm and the hand. Its main skeletal component is the radiocarpal (wrist) joint, that connects the radius to the carpal bones of the hand and ensures the mobility of the hand as a whole.

The hand is the most distal part of the upper limb. It consists of several groups of bones connected via numerous articulations that enable the fine movements of the hand, such as writing or drawing. From proximal to distal, these bones are divided into three groups: carpal bones, metacarpal bones, and phalanges.

  • There are 8 carpal bones arranged into a proximal (4) and a distal row (4). These bones are irregular in shape and require a bit more time and focus to learn.
  • Metacarpal bones are five long bones, each comprising the root of the corresponding digit. These bones are quite uniform, so learning about their general characteristics will provide you with the required knowledge about all five of them.
  • Phalanges comprise three sets of bones: proximal, middle and distal. Note that the thumb is devoid of a middle phalanx, so it only has a proximal and distal phalanx. Like the metacarpals, the phalanges are also uniform in shape, displaying the general features of long bones.

The following video tutorial will introduce you to the anatomy of the wrist and hand.

Take a quiz

Take the following quiz to test and reinforce your knowledge about this topic.

Use the following link to take a quiz on the other structures of the hand. Or customize your quiz entirely, choosing the terms that you want to be tested on.

Download the following PDF worksheets and learn the carpal bones.


Browse atlas

Examine each bone one by one through our atlas gallery. Note that we will first guide you through the landmarks seen from the palmar perspective, and then through those visible on the dorsal surface of the hand.


Key points about the bones of the wrist and hand
Carpal bones 8 irregular bones that comprise the root of the hand.
Proximal row: Scaphoid, lunate, triquetrum, pisiform
Distal row: Trapezium, trapezoid, capitate, hamate
Joints: Radiocarpal, intercarpal, midcarpal, carpometacarpal
Metacarpal bones 5 long bones that comprise the roots of digits.
Parts: Metacarpal base, body, head
Joints: Carpometacarpal, intermetacarpal, metacarpophalangeal
Phalanges 14 long bones that comprise the skeleton of the digits.
5 proximal phalanges;
4 middle phalanges (absent in thumb);
5 distal phalanges.
Each phalanx consists of: base, body, head.
Joints: Metacarpophalangeal, interphalangeal

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