Looking at inner workings of your hands

What’s going on in your hands that enables them to do so many cool, wonderful things? I mean, when you really stop to think about just how much of our society has been crafted by, well, two hands, it’s kind of overwhelming. Just how complicated are these hands of ours, and how easy is it for something to go wrong? (And, for that matter, what happens when something does indeed go wrong?)

Have you ever stopped to think about what’s going on in your hands? Here’s what I mean: you’re probably on your phone or on your computer right now. Which means that your hands have already accomplished several really complicated tasks just to get your here. And that’s not even stopping to consider anything like, well, eating breakfast.

What’s Going on In Your Hands?

Here’s what I’m getting at: our hands do amazingly complicated tasks every day without us even having to think about it. You want that cereal? Put that spoon in your mouth! But you don’t have to stop to calculate just how much pressure to apply to that spoon handle to ensure you don’t fling milk in your face.

Your brain and your hands conspire to do that automatically. Which is pretty remarkable when you stop to think about it. That’s why I’ve become really curious about everything that happens, you know, beneath the skin. That’s why I want to know what’s going on in your hands, where you can’t see it. What makes these typical tasks so easy? And how quickly can things go wrong with the hands (that’s a big fear of mine, personally).

A Complex Machine

You remember in your elementary school science class when you would talk about simple machines? These were the very most basic machines people were capable of creating: pulleys, levers, ramps, and so on. When you combine several simple machines (a pulley with a lever, for example), you get a complex machine.

When you stop to think about it, our hands are basically just machines. Some parts are simple, some parts are complex. But there are four basic structures in your hand that enable them to do actual work. Those structures are:

  • Bone: So, it should come as no surprise that your skeleton is, you know, useful. Your bones provide the structures to which everything else is connected. They are the backbone (you know what I mean) of the hand. Without the bones, nothing else in your hand would really work.
  • Muscle: The muscle is, essentially, the engine of the hand. The muscles are what provide the power to the simple and complex machines within the fingers and the thumbs and the hands themselves. Muscles give you power to do things! And all machines require power of some kind.
  • Tendons and ligaments: Okay, I’m kind of cheating by putting these two together, but I can’t help it. Tendons and ligaments are like the pulleys of the hands. They comprise the connective tissue. Ligaments connect bones to other bones. Tendons connect muscle to bone. Together, they turn all of that muscle power into meaningful work (it would be impossible to flex your fingers, for example, without tendons and ligaments).
  • Nerves: Your nervous system–and the specific nerves in your hands–are what allow you to have the sensation of feeling. If you experience nerve damage in your hands, it would be impossible for you to have any kind of tactile sensation. So they’re pretty important. They are also what enables you to feel pain. And as much as that might bother you, pain is actually quite a useful tool for your body.

Throwing Off a Complicated System

Once you begin to see just how many moving parts there are, it also becomes easy to see just how that system might start to break down. There’s some redundancy in your hands–but not a lot. If a tendon or a ligament is damaged or injured, it’s likely to impact your overall range of movement. It might even cause pain and discomfort.

There are, in fact, a wide range of hand ailments that could affect these marvelously complex bits of anatomy. And, thankfully, medical science is usually up to the task of attempting to find a suitable treatment for each of these ailments (hand doctors and hand surgeons come in quite, uh, handy).

If you are feeling symptoms of pain or discomfort or limited mobility in your hands, you should see a medical professional as soon as possible. When something is off or injured in your hands, it may put additional stress on other areas of your hand–in other words, your hand problems could quickly escalate. And if you want to know what’s going on in your hands, the best place to find out is from an expert (a doctor is the expert we’re talking about, in this case).


About the Author: Dan Voltz is a copywriter who spends a lot of his time writing about cosmetic and plastic surgery, not to mention other medical topics. He spends a lot of time conferring with plastic surgeons to ensure he provides the latest and most accurate information possible.

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