What are the Different Hand Tendons?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The hand tendons include two groups of tendons divided into flexors and extensors. The flexors emerge from the common flexor tendon in the arm and are responsible for bending and curving motions. The extensors, arising from the common extensor tendon, straighten the fingers and wrist. These tendons are controlled by muscles in the forearm, making the hand essentially like a marionette on strings.

Injuries to the hand tendons are very common.
Injuries to the hand tendons are very common.

The flexor tendons include the flexor digitorum, which splits into five tendons that split off again into the flexor digitorum sublimis and flexor digitorum profundus when they reach the fingers, although thumb has only one flexor tendon. The profundus is a longer tendon designed to mobilize the upper joint in the fingers, while the sublimis is shorter and moves the middle joint.

Hand tendon injuries should be evaluated by a doctor to prevent further damage.
Hand tendon injuries should be evaluated by a doctor to prevent further damage.

In addition, bending movements of the hand are controlled by the flexor carpi ulnaris and the flexor carpi radialis, and many people, but not all, also have a palmaris longus, a tendon in the wrist that will create an obviously visible ridge when the hand is flexed. The other flexor tendon of the hand is the pronator teres, used to turn the arm to invert the hand towards the body.

Closely related, the flexor carpi radialis is used to flex the wrist while the extensor carpi ulnaris extends the wrist.
Closely related, the flexor carpi radialis is used to flex the wrist while the extensor carpi ulnaris extends the wrist.

Extensor tendons of the wrist include the extensor carpi radialis and the extensor carpi ulnaris. In addition, a large tendon called the extensor digitorum feeds the individual fingers with flexor tendons. A special smaller tendon, the extensor minimi digiti, straightens the little finger.

Injuries to tendons in the hand may have a negative impact on the entire arm.
Injuries to tendons in the hand may have a negative impact on the entire arm.

Together, the network of hand tendons works to control the hands, providing a very high degree of motor control. Humans can perform a wide variety of complex tasks with their hands with the assistance of the hand tendons. Because of the heavy usage seen by the hands, these tendons are particularly prone to inflammation and associated health problems.

Injuries to the hand tendons are very common. The tendons lie close to the surface of the hand, making them vulnerable to bruising, and relatively shallow cuts to the fingers can result in a severed or strained tendon. If a tendon is severed, it will tend to snap back into the hand, because the tendons are placed under considerable pressure. Surgery is required to fish the tendon out of the hand and repair it, and the patient may need to use a traction device to hold the tendon in place while it heals. Damage to the hand tendons can result in contractures of the fingers or immobility of an injured finger.

Damage to the hand tendons may result in contractures of the fingers.
Damage to the hand tendons may result in contractures of the fingers.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

NathanG

@Mammmood - Personally I don’t think that it’s computer keyboard activity that puts hand tendons at risk. Usually you hear about these kinds of injuries in sports, especially basketball where the players are dribbling the basketball a lot and throwing it through the hoop.

This up and down motion can put the player at risk for torn hand tendons. They can usually recover by taking some time off from play, or playing a little with a splint in place.

Actually I think that if you sustain such an injury then playing with a splint is asking for more trouble. But some guys can’t stay off the court for too long so I understand that.

Mammmood

@David09 - It’s important to get the right diagnosis in my opinion. Some people experience hand tendon pain and think that it’s carpal tunnel syndrome, especially if these people are doing a lot of repetitive stress activities like typing on the keyboard.

However it could be a mild form of tendinitis. I had tendinitis myself in the elbow and the doctor prescribed a series of exercises. One of the exercises involved flexing the flexor and extensor muscle up and down, as described in the article.

It helped a lot and reduced my need for ice packs – and importantly, eliminated the possibility of cortisone injections to reduce the pain.

David09

My son has played tennis at the tournament level for the past few years now. Eventually he started complaining about wrist pain. I don’t know if it was tennis elbow or what, but I definitely think that it was some sort of hand tendon injury.

At first we tried to bring some relief by using ice packs and that worked temporarily. However as soon as he started playing again the pain would return.

One option would have been to have him cease playing for six weeks or more but he was not in favor of that at all. Finally we bought him this flexor device. He rotates the device with this hands and it strengthens his arm and wrist muscles.

That seems to have worked well and he is experiencing less pain.

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