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Bones of the wrist and hand

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able 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 and hand are the most distal parts of the upper limb. They consist of several groups of bones connected via numerous articulations that facilitate fine movements of the hand, such as writing or drawing. From proximal to distal, these bones are divided into three groups:

  • Carpal bones: eight short bones arranged into proximal and distal rows (4 each).
  • Metacarpal bones: five long bones, each form the root of the corresponding digit.
  • Phalanges: fourteen long bones subdivided into three sets: proximal, middle and distal. 

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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