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.
Other fractures of the elbow can decrease the carrying angle of the elbow. If the angle is decreased, the arm points toward the body. This is known as 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
Morrey BF. Functional evaluation of the elbow. In: Morrey BF, Sanchez-Sotelo J, Morrey ME, eds. Morrey's The Elbow and Its Disorders. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 5.
Perez EA. Fractures of the shoulder, arm, and forearm. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 57.
Review Date 11/12/2020
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.