Think about a typical morning. We wake up and turn off the alarm clock (or hit snooze a couple times!), eat breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed for the day, and turn the doorknob to leave. We rely heavily on our hands to perform each of these tasks. But how well do you really know the hands you use so much?
There are about 27 bones in each hand and 26 bones in each foot, meaning more than half the bones in the entire body reside in the hands and feet alone! The hand bones are broken up into three categories: carpals, metacarpals, and phalanges.
The carpals, also known as the wrist bones, are eight pebble-sized bones located under the heel of the hand, close to the wrist crease. These uniquely shaped bones—each with its own name—fit together like a jigsaw puzzle or mosaic. There is very little movement between each carpal bone.
The metacarpals are five long, thin bones located under the flesh of the palm. They connect the carpals (wrist bones) to the phalanges (finger bones). The tops of the metacarpals form the knuckles.
There are 14 phalanges, or finger bones: two in the thumb, and three in each finger. The phalanges are longest near the palm and shortest at the fingertips.
Fingers have no muscles. The tendons that stretch from the muscles in the palm and arm are responsible for all of the incredible, intricate movements of our fingers.
Movements of the fingers and thumbs include flexion, extension, abduction, and adduction. Movements at the wrist include flexion, extension, ulnar deviation, and radial deviation. All these actions can be divided into pairs of opposites (for example, flexion and extension), and all these movements are used in ordinary, everyday activities.
When you hail a cab, the fingers and thumb are extended (straight). When you close your hand to grab a jar or hold an umbrella, the fingers and thumb are in flexion. Note, the fingers and thumbs move in opposition of one another. That is to say, all fingers flex and extend (bend and straighten) on a vertical plane, while the thumb’s flexion and extension occurs horizontally.
If you open the fingers wide—like when you palm a basketball—the fingers are abducted (moving away from center). If all the fingers touch one another—like when you reach your hand into a small jar—the fingers are in adduction. To remember the difference between these terms, remember that if you are abducted by aliens, you are taken away from earth; thus, abducted means to move away from center!
The wrists are extended when you are in a pushup position with your palms flat on the floor. They are in flexion (or flexed) when you offer your hand for someone to kiss. When you wash your hands and then realize there are no paper towels, you might repeatedly alternate between ulnar and radial deviation as you shake the water off.
The nerves and sensory receptors in the hands transmit an incredible amount of information to the brain. When you hold a baby, the nerves in your hands send signals to the brain to help you negotiate how much pressure to use, so as not to drop the baby or squeeze her too tight. Nerves also play an important role in reflexes. When you touch a hot stove, the nerves in your hands send a signal to the spinal cord, which triggers the muscles to contract and pull the hand away from the stove, long before the brain even recognizes the danger! As we age, these nerve endings are weakened and damaged due to overuse and maladies such as arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Damaged nerves compromise the dialogue between the brain, central nervous system, and muscles, which leads to decreased muscle control and more opportunity for injury. Much of this damage is preventable by simply maintaining optimal strength, stretch, and alignment in the hands. Our technique, Pressurize the Hands, helps to protect the nerves, prevent future injury, and relieve preexisting symptoms.
Pressurize the Hands to stabilize the wrist joints, protect the nerves in the hands for enhanced reflexes, and prevent painful hand and wrist conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and tendinitis.
To Pressurize the Hands, first imagine points at the base of the thumbs, pinky fingers, outer palms, and inner palms. Pull the finger stems long and push through all four points of the palms.
To practice this technique with hands in Eastern Prayer Mudra, follow these cues:
1. Inhale; pull finger stems long.
2. Exhale; push the palms together.
In everyday life, you can Pressurize the Hands when you push a revolving door or hold anything in your hands. Pull finger stems long and push your palm against the door or against the object you are holding.
Try our hand workout to stretch, strengthen, and optimize the hands, and practice our Enliven the Hands technique.
Since the hands are so complex, there are many possible injuries, diseases, and disorders that can affect their range of motion and ability to move in general. Some of the most common include bone fractures, sprains, tendinitis, arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.