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Many animals have an appendage at the end of their limb, but only primate mammals have hands with opposable thumbs capable of grasping objects. The hand allows us to physically control and manipulate our world more than any other body part. Read on to learn more about the human hand, and how it works.

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Hand (Top View)

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Hand Bones - Top View
Hand Bones - Top View

Humans have two hands. The human or primate hand is different from the paws, claws, and talons or other animals. The hand has opposable thumbs which are specifically designed for grasping objects. Your hands provide for both gross motor skills (grasping a large object) and fine motor skills (picking up a small pebble).

Each hand has five fingers or digits. These are the thumb, index or pointer finger, middle finger, ring finger, and little finger or pinky.

Each hand has 27 bones including the wrist. There are 14 bones in the fingers: 2 in the thumb and 3 in each of the other four fingers. These bones are called phalanges. There are 5 bones in the palm or metacarpus. These bones are called metacarpals. The hand is attached to the forearm by a joint called the wrist or carpus. There are 8 bones in the wrist. These bones are called carpals.

The hands provide excellent tactile feedback, allowing you to sense and manipulate your environment. The fingertips are very dense with nerve endings. This makes your fingertips extremely sensitive to temperature, pressure, vibration, texture, and moisture.

Hand (Side View)

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Hand Bones - Lateral or Side View
Hand Bones - Lateral or Side View

The side view of the hand on the right shows how the opposable thumb can be controlled and used to close against, or oppose, the movement of the other fingers.

The muscles used to move your fingers are in the palm and forearm. When you move your fingers, you can actually see these long tendons working under the skin at the wrist and on the back of the hand. Try this experiment. Hold your hand with the palm up. Open and close your hand by bending and straightening your fingers. You should see the long tendon move in your wrist. Then turn your hand over, palm down. Once again, open and close your hand by flexing and extending your fingers. You should be able to see several tendons stretching along the top of your hand.

Do you know if you are left handed or right handed? If you are right handed, you prefer using your right hand for single-handed activities such as writing or throwing a ball. Some people prefer their right hand for things, such as writing, but the left hand for other things such as throwing a ball. Some people can even do things equally well with either hand. Like the eyes, ears and legs, each hand is dominantly controlled by the opposite side of the brain. The left hand is dominantly controlled by the right side of your brain, and the right hand dominantly controlled by the left side of the brain.


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