Hand Facts of Life

HandsRaisedBy Marie Albiges, Freelance Writer

By a show of hands (pun intended), who knows the hand facts of life?

In honor of National Hand Therapy Week (June 2-8), let’s celebrate the use of our hands with facts about our most special, most used body part.

“The hand is what functionally sets us apart,” said Marcia Miller, PT, MS, CHT, a hand therapist and Clinical Director at the Williamsburg Tidewater Physical Therapy Clinic and Hand Therapy Center. “We are the only beings with opposable thumbs and the proper strength and control that allow us to perform actions such as gripping objects and tying knots. Your hand is what cares for your body.”

And this week, we care for and celebrate the hand.

Anatomy of the Hand. Did you know…

Our hands and fingers are made up of bones, joints, muscles, nerves, vessels and tendons.

On average, there are 29 major and minor bones in the hands. Now this is where it gets interesting. We say more or less because some people have a few more or a few less bones.

There are 29 major joints, at least 123 ligaments, 34 muscles, 48 nerves and 30 arteries.

The Evolution of Hands

Can you believe that our hands evolved from fins at least 380 million years ago?

Over time, fingers formed from the fins so animals could better grip objects. By the time vertebrates started walking on land, the hand consisted of five fingers, which helped with the functioning use of tools.

Today, humans and primates are the only beings with palms and five fingers, although some amphibians such as the gecko and the tree frog have four fingers that allow them to grasp things such as tree branches.

Maybe that’s why GEICO’s mascot seems so human like.

The Right Touch

They say you can tell who a person is by their handshake. But ever wonder where the handshake comes from? Although it’s hard to pinpoint which era it originated from, most experts agree the concept predates written history. The first recorded handshake was found in an Egyptian hieroglyphic. Wonder if the Egyptians taught their children about the importance of a firm handshake?

Speaking of touch hands, studies have shown that hand-holding decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

A simple friendly touch can increase the release of the oxytocin, which promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding.

Quirky Hands

Between 10 and 15 percent of the population is left-handed, while one in 100 people are naturally ambidextrous, which means they can use both hands equally well.

Some people have a birth defect known as webbed fingers, or Zygodactyly. One in every 2,000 or so people have webbed fingers, and the webbing typically occurs between the middle and ring fingers.

Many people are also double-jointed in their fingers, allowing them to bend their fingers farther than normal. Properly called Hypermobility, or by college co-eds a cool party trick, this genetic heightened flexibility has its downsides: it can lead to pain, injury and a high risk of dislocation and sprain.

The Art of Hands

For many people, their entire work is in their hands—think pianists, surgeons, carpenters and massage therapists. But what about hand models?

Hand modeling is truly an art form. There are even certain criteria: an even skin tone, nicely shaped and even nails, straight fingers, a handsome thumb, an overall moisturized and smooth-looking complexion, and an ability to convey emotion in your hands are just a few.

Land a hand modeling contract, and you could earn between $300 and several thousand dollars a day.

Hand Injuries

According to E Medicine Health, hand injuries account for almost 10 percent of Emergency Room visits. The most common hand injuries include Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, fractures and dislocations, Osteoarthritis and Tendonitis.

Net Voucher Codes recently announced that the average cell phone owner will text two million words in his or her lifetime.

Many modern hand injuries now stem from technology overuse, and in 2005, the American Society of Hand Therapists warned in a Consumer Alert that handheld electronics may lead to an “increased susceptibility to hand, wrist and arm ailments such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendonitis.”

About Hand Therapy Week

Sponsored by the American Society of Hand Therapists, Hand Therapy Week is an integrated national program that promotes the benefits of the hand therapy specialty and the services they provide.

Hand Therapy Week brings the benefits of the hand therapy specialty to new audiences – demonstrating the advantages of prevention and treatment procedures for patients who have been affected by an accident or trauma, and educating the public.

Hand Therapy and Tidewater Physical Therapy

Suffering from pain in your hands or even looking at a future hand modeling gig and want to get ready? Make your own appointment today with one of our certified hand therapists in Williamsburg, Richmond and Gloucester. Patients do not need a physician referral for an assessment.

For more information on hand therapy, clink the link below to hear an interview on Hand Therapy for the Gardener by Marcia Miller PT, MS, CHT


For tips on lifting for the gardener, watch this short video put together by our Gloucester Clinics and friends at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.


Marie Albiges is a freelance writer with Consociate Media. Second to writing, running is her passion.