When your arms are held out at your sides and your palms are facing forward, your forearm and hands should normally be about 5 to 15 degrees away from your body. This is the normal "carrying angle" of the elbow. This angle allows your forearms to clear your hips when you swing your arms, such as during walking. It is also important when carrying objects.
Certain fractures of the elbow can increase the carrying angle of the elbow, causing the arms to stick out too much from the body. This is called an excessive carrying angle.
If the angle is decreased so that the arm points toward the body, it is called a "gunstock deformity."
Because the carrying angle varies from person to person, it is important to compare one elbow with the other when evaluating a problem with the carrying angle.
Elbow carrying angle - excessive; Cubitus valgus
Birch JG. The orthopaedic examination: a comprehensive overview. In: Herring JA, ed. Tachdjian's Pediatric Orthopaedics. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 3.
Magee DJ. Elbow. In: Magee DJ, ed. Orthopedic Physical Assessment. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 6.
Review Date 10/21/2018
Updated by: Jennifer K. Mannheim, ARNP, Medical Staff, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Seattle Children's Hospital, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.