By Marian Connor

I was thinking about hands, after writing about feet in the last blog I thought it logical to follow with hands. Not that logic is my strong point.

Hands those magnificent instruments at the far end of your arms, 4 fingers all with their own speciality and a thumb, which thanks to the movement allowed by its saddle joint means our hands create opposition and in doing so allows primates hands greater adaptability, grip and dexterity.

See how hampered your actions are by holding your thumb out of the equation. It’s amazing how limited your movements become.

 

 

The human hand consists of these amazing digits.

Digitus Pollex – the thumb

Digitus Indicus – index finger

Ideal for pointing. Humans appear to be the only creatures that point, implying our brains at some time must have discovered something or someplace interesting enough to point at.

Digitus Impudicus – the middle finger

The finger of impudence raised as an insult.

Digitus Annularis – the ring finger

This finger was believed to have magic powers also believed to have a vein that ran directly to the heart, perhaps leading to its placement for wedding rings.

Digitus Auricularis – little finger

Named because it was a perfect size to clean the Auris, the ear.

These digits are carefully manoeuvred by a complex arrangement of tendons emerging from flexor and extensor muscles in the arm to create precise and dexterous movements which can be in jeopardy because so many tendons and nerves pass through a narrow channel in the wrist. Overuse can result in damage to the nerves and tendons resulting in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Our hands are truly magnificent things they allow us a life time of holding on and letting go. They tie knots, build monuments, caress loved ones, chop wood, strike, stroke, embroider, sculpt, throw, catch, play the drums, perform surgery.

The nerves required to perform these intricate tasks take up a whole lot of brain space. How much brain space is required for the use of our hands can be seen in the cortex image below.

A graphic image of a slice of cortex showing which parts of the brain are linked to which body part

 

If our bodies were proportional to the amount of brain power required we would look like this…

A photograph of a sculpture of a naked man with oversized hands.

…thankfully they are not.

Our hands determine much of life as we know it.

They have facilitated counting in a decimal system, the digits we count share a name with our fingers and toes.

We use our hands as measurements. Henry VIII declared the official width of a man’s hand to be 4 inches. This is a measure still used today to denote the height of a horse.

We greet with handshakes an act that goes back into human history.

We create art a statement of being human as far back as Palaeolithic cave and rock paintings.

We indicate approval, or not, with the pollice verso, thumbs down when indicated by a Roman emperor, sealed the fate of a poor gladiator.

To show defiance, with a longbow salute, English bowmen captured by the French in the Hundred Years’ War would have had 2 fingers chopped off to prevent them using a bow again. Those who had never been captured liked to indicate the presence of those 2 fingers in raised defiance.

We bring them together in veneration and clap them in celebration.

Palm readers link the creases in our hands to our destiny. The art of chiromancy attaches meaning to every little feature on your palm.

Modern medicine knows that the length and ratios of fingers indicate exposure to testosterone in vitro. In 2010 research at the University of Warwick found that less exposure to testosterone in the womb resulted in men having longer index fingers and a much lower risk of developing prostate cancer as a result.

It is thought the majority of people have a dominate right hand and perhaps 10% are left handed but right or left, our hands mirror the reflexology maps used for our feet. So just as we can massage foot pressure points to activate body meridians which correspond to particular organs, the same can be done with the hand.

An image of a Reflexology Chart showing a pair of hands with the reflex points marked in colour linked to the associated body parts

 

Remember to be grateful for and to love your hands. Take time to watch this film about Zion, a boy who had 2 hands transplanted. Wonder at the ability of the surgeons to perform micro surgery, the generosity of the donor family and at the feisty young man who will benefit from it.

 

Image Tile/Header – Pat Blake, New York 1947 for Vogue by Erwin Blumenfeld

YouTube – Your Inner Fish – The Human Hand a Gift from Ancient Primates. PBS

YouTube – Bilateral Hand Transplant in a Child: Zion’s Story via an article from mindbodygreen by Emi Boscamp

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Photo of Marian Connor and black text saying "Always looking over the horizon to discover treasures to share. Often times whilst partaking of a fine red."