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Claw hand


Claw hand is a condition that causes curved or bent fingers. This makes the hand appear like the claw of an animal.


Someone can be born with claw hand (congenital), or they can develop it because of certain disorders, such as nerve injury.


Causes may include:

  • Congenital abnormality
  • Nerve damage in the arm
  • Scarring after a severe burn of the hand or forearm

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If the condition is congenital, it is usually diagnosed at birth. If you notice claw hand developing, contact your health care provider.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will examine you and look closely at your hands and feet. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms.

The following tests may be done to check for nerve damage:

  • Electromyography (EMG)
  • Nerve conduction studies


Treatment depends on the cause. It may include:

  • Splinting
  • Surgery to fix problems that may be contributing to the claw hand, such as nerve problems, tendon abnormalities, joint contractures, or scar tissue
  • Therapy to straighten the fingers


Preston DC, Shapiro BE. Proximal, distal, and generalized weakness. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 25.

Sarnat HB. Hereditary motor-sensory neuropathies. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 605.

Review Date: 9/8/2014
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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