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Wrist Joint Anatomy

Arm yourself with more information about the handy wrist joint.

Woman waving with wrist joint

Familiar motions of the wrist joint, such as waving, knocking or using a hammer, seem simple, yet beneath the surface is a complex structure of joints, ligaments and tendons working together to facilitate movement.

The wrist joint forms where the two bones on either side of the forearm, the radius and the ulna, meet the carpus at the base of the hand. Though the wrist is referred to as the radiocarpal joint, it is actually composed of multiple small joints (Arthritis Foundation n.d.; Ficke 2019). Anyone who has ever had a serious wrist injury fully comprehends the importance of this body part.

The main purpose of the wrist joint is to provide the range of motion needed to perform daily tasks while ensuring stability in the hand. Important functions include

  • moving the hand up and down (flexion and extension) and side to side (adduction and abduction);
  • transferring force from the arm to the hand; and
  • providing the hand with strength and flexibility (Ficke 2019).

Read on to get the rundown on wrists:

  • All movements of the wrist joint are performed by the forearm muscles (Grujičić 2021).
  • The human hand and wrist together contain 54 bones (BIDMC 2018).
  • The ROM for wrist flexion is about 50°; for extension it’s around 35°. ROM is 30° for adduction and only 7° for abduction (Grujičić 2021).
  • Wrist exercises for conditioning or rehabilitation include the prayer stretch with palms together in front of the torso; the wrist flexor stretch that bends your hand back toward the forearm; and the wrist extensor stretch that extends the palm down (AHS 2020).
  • Common wrist injuries are sprains, fractures, and dislocations of bony and ligamentous structures that comprise the wrist (Grujičić 2021).

See also: Warmups to Get Wrist-Ready!



References

AHS (Alberta Health Services). 2020. Wrist: exercises. Accessed July 5, 2021: myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=ad1518.

Arthritis Foundation. n.d. Hand and wrist anatomy. Accessed July 5, 2021: arthritis.org/health-wellness/about-arthritis/where-it-hurts/hand-and-wrist-anatomy.

BIDMC (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center). 2018. Fun facts about bones and joints. Accessed July 5, 2021: bidmc.org/about-bidmc/wellness-insights/bones-and-joints/2018/08/fun-facts-about-bones-and-joints.

Ficke, B. 2019. Guide to wrist anatomy. Veritas Health. Accessed July 5, 2021: sports-health.com/sports-injuries/hand-and-wrist-injuries/guide-wrist-anatomy.

Grujičić, R. 2021. Radiocarpal joint. Kenhub. Accessed July 5, 2021: kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/the-wrist-joint.

 

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Sarah Kolvas

Sarah Kolvas is the associate editor for Fitness Journal.

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