Editor's Note: When you see these three dots surrounded by a gray rectangle — 1 — you can click on it to get further information about the topic. Click a second time, and the message goes away.
Bones of the Feet
There are 26 bones in the feet. The foot is divided into three sections. Beginning from the front of the foot, they are:
- The forefoot: Ten bones form the toes of the forefoot. Like the bones of the hand, the digital bones are called phalanges while the five longer bones are referred to as the metatarsals.
- The midfoot: There are eight bones which create the arch and act as shock absorbers. The top is called the instep; the bottom is called the sole; it is connected to the back and front by muscles and plantar fascia. The midfoot is a pyramid-like collection of bones and includes the three cuneiform bones, the cuboid bone, and the navicular bone.
- The hindfoot or rearfoot: This is formed by the ankle and the heel. The talus bone supports the leg bones (tibia and fibula) 2 and this forms the ankle. The heel bone (calcaneus) is the largest bone in the foot.
Consider how very flexible your feet are. You can point your toe, stand on your toes, move your ankle up and down and left to right. Thanks to those bones and joints in our feet, we can walk, run, and jump. This flexibility is possible because the foot has many bones, joints, muscles, and soft tissues. Another important part which helps the foot to move is the Achilles tendon which connects the heel to the calf muscle — this is essential for almost all movement.
Injuries to the Foot
Of course, bones can break, sprain, or fracture in the foot, just as they can break in any other part of the body.
Other problems with our feet include:
- Injuries and overuse: sprains, plantar fasciitis;
- Infections: athlete’s foot, planter warts;
- Structural changes: bunions, ingrown toenails; and,
- Genetic disorders at birth: club foot.
Treatment for foot injuries will depend on the type of injury. Sometimes just rest and ice is needed for recovery, but x-rays, surgery, or medication may also be necessary, depending on the severity and nature of the injury.
See also: Taking Care of your Feet
Bones of the Hand
There are 27 bones in the five fingers of the hand. In addition, there are numerous sesamoid bones in the hand, small ossified nodes embedded in tendons; the exact number varies from person to person.
The bones of the hands are:
- The metacarpals: long bones within the hand that are connected to the carpals (wrist bones) and to the phalanges (finger bones). The metacarpals together are referred to as the metacarpus. The tops of the metacarpals form the knuckles where they join to the wrist. On the palm side, they are covered with connective tissue. You can feel and see the metacarpals on the back of your hand, through your skin. The five metacarpals are called thumb, index (or first), middle, ring, and small.
- Phalanges: proximal, intermediate and distal parts of the fingers; there are 14 of them.
- The Wrist: made up of a cluster of eight bones known as the carpal bones. The eight carpal bones are: trapezium, trapezoid, capitate, hamate, scaphoid, lunate, triquetrum, and pisiform. Because the wrist can rotate about the axis of the forearm (supination and pronation), the ulna and radius 3 are sometimes considered part of the skeleton of the hand.
The five fingers of the hand can move a great deal, giving us great dexterity. These are known as articulations and there are four of them:
- Interphalangeal articulations: the hinge joints between the bones of the digits;
- Metacarpophalangeal joints: where the digits meet the palm and are usually called the knuckles;
- Intercarpal articulations: where the palm meets the wrist; and,
- the wrist: allowing for numerous movements of the hand (but may also be viewed as belonging to the forearm).
The hands play an important function in body language and sign language. As well, fingers are a rich source of tactile feedback because of the large numbers of sensory input. Each hand is dominantly controlled by the opposing brain hemisphere.
Injuries to the Hand
Ten percent of all fractures are those to the metacarpals and phalanges.
Finger, hand, or wrist injuries are very common and most often occur during:
- Sports or recreational activities;
- Work-related tasks;
- Work or projects around the home; and,
- Accidental falls.
Older adults are at higher risk for injuries and fractures because they lose muscle mass and bone strength as they age, causing either osteopena or osteporosis. They also have more problems with vision and balance, which increases their risk of accidental injury.
Most minor injuries will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve symptoms and promote healing.
Acute or sudden injuries, however, may require medical treatment. Sprains and strains may not require medical attention but bruising or swelling is a sign of possible further injury. Broken bones and wrist fractures are particularly painful.
Overuse injuries occur when too much stress is placed on a joint or other tissue, often by "overdoing" an activity or repeating the same activity. Overuse injuries include the following: carpal tunnel syndrome 4, tendinosis 5, and De Querbain's disease 6.
If the pain and discomfort is too much to bear — or prevents you from doing normal, daily activities — you should see your doctor immediately.
Related articles which you might find of interest are:
- Joints and Exercise
- Dem Bones Dem Bones: The Skeleton
- The Ribs
- Three Arm Bones: the humerus, the radius, and the ulna
- Three Leg Bones: The femur, the tibia, and the fibula
I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.
These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. ↩
See Three Leg Bones: The femur, the tibia, and the fibula for more information. ↩
See Three Arm Bones: the humerus, the radius, and the ulna for more information. ↩
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on a nerve (median nerve ) in the wrist. The symptoms include tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain of the fingers and hand. ↩
Tendinosis is a series of very small tears (microtears) in the tissue in or around the tendon. In addition to pain and tenderness, common symptoms of tendon injury include decreased strength and movement in the affected area. ↩
De Quervain's disease can occur in the hand and wrist when tendons and the tendon covering (sheath) on the thumb side of the wrist swell and become inflamed. ↩