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Wrist 101: Your Guide to Wrist Anatomy

May 18, 2022

Wrist 101: Your Guide to Wrist Anatomy


Throughout history, the human race has used tools of various designs and functions to farm, to breed, and to build great civilizations. But these rugged tools pale in comparison to the most complex tool of all – the human hand.

But with all the complexities of the hand, there is one part of your body that's equally as important – the wrist. 

Being the bridge between your hand and forearm, the wrist is vital in helping you perform important activities. 

While the hand is without a doubt important, it’s the wrist that gives control and movement to the hands. 

So in this article, we will be talking about wrist anatomy. We’ll be looking at the different wrist bones, ligaments, nerves, and muscles that make up the wrist anatomy. 

Because your wrists are important parts of your body, we’ll also touch on the common injuries, their symptoms, and treatments. 

By the end of this article, our goal is for you to have a deeper knowledge and appreciation of your wrist’s anatomy and functions.

You know what they say – it’s all in the wrist! 

Why is it important to know wrist anatomy?

It’s important to know wrist anatomy because they essentially control the movement of your hands and allow you to do tasks that are necessary for living. 

So, having a basic knowledge of wrist anatomy will help you prevent wrist injuries, as well as help you treat them if you get injured. 

What Makes Up the Wrist?

 

Person holding wrist

 

Wrist anatomy can get a little confusing especially because of all the joints it has. In fact, there is more than one joint in the wrist.

Your wrist is made up of many smaller bones and joints that allow the hand to move in different directions. This also includes the big ends of your forearm bones that connect to the carpal, or wrist, bones. 

Let’s take a closer look at it, starting with the wrist bones. 

Carpal bones in the wrist

There are a total of eight carpal bones, also known as wrist bones, in your wrist. The wrist bones are small irregular bones that connect the hand to the ends of the forearm bones: the radius and ulna. 

These wrist bones are small yet when joined together, they form a strong and mobile unit that allows your hand to move in many directions.

The eight wrist bones are divided into two groups: the proximal and distal carpal row. It’s the proximal carpal rows that connect to the radius and the ulna.

The proximal carpal row includes these bones:

  • Scaphoid - is a boat-shaped bone that connects to your thumb. It’s a common site of fractures, often injured in a fall with an outstretched hand (FOOSH injuries)
  • Lunate - is a moon-shaped bone that’s right beside the scaphoid. It’s the site that commonly dislocates. 
  • Triquetrum - is a pyramid-shaped bone beside the hamate.
  • Pisiform - a small, pea-shaped bone that’s embedded by a tendon. The pisiform acts to decrease the stress on the flexor carpi ulnaris muscle.   

The distal carpal row includes these bones:

  • Trapezium - is a square-shaped bone above the scaphoid and under the thumb.
  • Trapezoid - is a wedged-shaped bone found beside the trapezium.
  • Capitate - is an oval or head-shaped bone that’s found in the middle of the wrist. The capitate is the largest of all the carpal bones.
  • Hamate - is a wedged-shaped bone located under the pinky finger with a palpable hook.

What are the joints of the wrist?

Because your wrist contains three primary joints, it’s more mobile compared to other parts of the body that only have one. This allows your wrist and hand to move freely while not giving up stability. 

This is what makes wrist anatomy so cool! 

The wrist joints allow you to move your hand up and down as well as side to side, giving you control over your surroundings. You're going to have problems if your wrist joint doesn't perform as it should.

The three joints that make up the wrist are:

  • Radiocarpal joint - The radiocarpal joint is where the radius meets the bones of the proximal carpal rows namely the: scaphoid, lunate, and triquetrum bones. This joint is located at the thumb side of your wrist.
  • Ulnocarpal joint - This is the joint between the ulna and the two wrist bones – the lunate and triquetrum bones. This joint is located at the pinky side of your wrist. 
  • Distal radioulnar joint - This is the joint between the ends of both the ulna and the radius. This doesn’t include any of the wrist bones.  

Take a look at this video for a more technical explanation of the wrist joints.

 

The ligaments of the wrist

Another part of the wrist is the ligaments. These are the many strong bands in the wrist that provide flexibility and stability to the wrist joint. 

  • Palmar radiocarpal - these ligaments are found on the palmar, or palm side, of the wrist. It passes from the radius to both rows of the carpal bones. The palmar radiocarpal ligament is responsible for both stability and allowing the hand to follow the forearm during supination.
  • Dorsal radiocarpal - these ligaments are found on the dorsum, or at the back, of the wrist. It also passes from the radius to both rows of the carpal bones. It contributes to the stability of the wrist and follows the forearm during pronation.
  • Ulnar collateral - this ligament runs from the ulna to the triquetrum and pisiform. It prevents the wrist from excessive radial deviation. 
  • Radial collateral - this ligament runs from the radius to the scaphoid and trapezium. It prevents the wrist from excessive ulnar deviation. 

The muscles of the wrist

The muscles responsible for moving and controlling the wrist are found on the forearm. The forearm muscles connect from the elbow area to the wrist bones. 

The movement of the wrists includes flexion, extension, adduction, and abduction. Below are the muscles and their action on the wrist. 

  • Flexion - Flexion is when you bend your hand forward, decreasing the angle at the wrist and making your palms face you. The muscles responsible for this movement are the flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor carpi radialis, and with some assistance from the flexor digitorum superficialis. 
  • Extension - Extension is when you bend your hand backwards, increasing the angle at the wrist and making the back of your hand face you. The muscles responsible for this movement are the extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis, and extensor carpi ulnaris, and with some assistance from the extensor digitorum. 
  • Adduction - Adduction is when you bring your hand towards the midline of your body. It’s produced by the extensor carpi ulnaris and flexor carpi ulnaris.
  • Abduction - Abduction is when you bring your hand away from the midline of your body. It’s produced by the abductor pollicis longus, flexor carpi radialis, extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis. 

Here’s a quick and simple video that will give you a better understanding of the movement of the wrist and hand. 

 



The neurovascular supply of the wrist

Blood vessels are important parts of the wrist. The main arteries that give blood to the wrist joint are the ulnar and radial arteries. 

Three nerves travel through the wrist and into the hands. These nerves are the median, ulnar, and radial nerves. These nerves are the end branches of the brachial plexus, a network of nerves located in the shoulder. 

  • Median nerve - the median nerve enters the wrist through the carpal tunnel and branches to the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and part of the ring finger. Compression of this nerve results in carpal tunnel syndrome. 
  • Radial nerve - the radial nerve supplies the forearm muscles that control the movement of the wrist and fingers. An injury to the radial nerve causes wrist drop or inability to straighten the wrist. The radial nerve is also responsible for providing sensation to parts of the back of the hand. 
  • Ulnar nerve - the ulnar nerve enters the wrist and travels into the ring and little finger. When this nerve is compressed at the elbow, cubital tunnel syndrome occurs. This nerve can also be compressed at the wrist as it passes through the tunnel of Guyon. This is also called handlebar palsy and commonly happens among bicyclists.

Now that you have an understanding of wrist anatomy, let’s explore practical ways you can do to prevent wrist injuries. 

How to keep your wrists healthy

 


 

Rest

If your job involves hours and hours of typing or some kind of deskwork, then it’s a good idea to take frequent breaks. The more you should do this if you frequently handle power tools or if your job involves manual labor. 

A 10-15 minute break between work sessions should be enough. You’d be surprised how far a few minutes of rest can take you. 

Your wrists (and your boss!) will thank you for it. 

Mind your posture

As tech-savvy people living in the digital age, we’re notorious for neglecting our posture. But having the proper posture plays a big role in preventing wrist injuries. Be mindful of your wrist positions while on the computer, watching TV, or while sleeping. Change positions if you find yourself stuck in one posture for too long. 

Watch this video to learn more about the proper posture when working on a desk. Having an ergonomic environment will help you prevent wrist pain and injuries. 


  

Stretch often

During the breaks you take, it would be helpful to stretch your wrists and hands. 

Try out this simple stretch:

  • Make a fist
  • Slide your fingers up until they point straight out
  • Repeat 5-10 times

Or this one:

  • Make a fist
  • Release your fingers and fan them out. Stretch them as far as you can
  • Repeat this 5-10 times

If you want to learn about the stretches you can do for your wrist, then watch this video: 

 


Change it up

Try to avoid doing the same wrist motions over and over again. If you find yourself using your right hand more, then switch over to your left hand. You can also try mixing it up to give your wrists a break. 

Apply an ice pack

If your wrists are constantly stressed or in pain, applying an ice pack will help reduce swelling and promote healing. Try icing your wrists for no more than 20 minutes at the end of the day for a relaxing evening. 

 
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Low Wrist, High Reward

With our hands being an important part of our bodies, it’s no wonder that our wrists are prone to injuries. You need your hands to perform activities every day so it’s important for you to know wrist anatomy and how to take care of it. 

As we outlined here in this article, taking frequent breaks while working, changing your posture, and being aware of the position of your wrists are some of the ways you can do to prevent wrist injuries. 

Don’t forget to do stretching exercises during breaks. While stretching exercises can be beneficial, they can also cause soreness. Applying an ice pack to your wrist after exercising will help lessen the effects of soreness.

For that reason, we recommend you try our 4x10 Reusable Multipurpose Gel Pack which, due to its comfortable fit, is great for relieving pain in your wrists. 

Whether you’re looking to treat or prevent wrist injuries, here at IceWraps.com, pain relief is just a click away!


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