Elbow Joint

The elbow is a ginglymus or hinge joint formed by the union of the humerus with the ulna and the radius.

Flexion and extension occur about a coronal axis and are the two movements permitted by this joint. Flexion is movement in the anterior direction, from the zero position of a straight elbow to a fully bent position, of approximately 145°. Extension is movement in a posterior direction, from the fully bent position, to the position of a straight elbow.

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© Florence P. Kendall. 1993. Author grants permission to reproduce for personal use but not for sale.


Origin of Oblique Fibers: Capitate bone and bases of the second and third metacarpal bones.

Origin of Transverse Fibers: Palmar surface of the third metacarpal bone.

Insertion: Transverse head into ulnar side of base of the proximal phalanx of the thumb and oblique head into extensor expansion.

Action: Adducts the carpometacarpal joint, and both adducts and assists in flexion of the metacarpophalangeal joint, so that the thumb moves toward the plane of the palm. Aids in opposition of the thumb toward the little finger. By virtue of the attachment of the oblique fibers into the extensor expansion, may assist in extending the interphalangeal joint.

Patient: Sitting or supine.

Fixation: The hand may be stabilized by the examiner or rest on the table for support (as illustrated).

Test: Adduction of the thumb toward the palm.

Pressure: Against the medial surface of the thumb, in the direction of abduction away from the palm.

Weakness: Results in inability to clench the thumb firmly over the closed fist.

Shortness: Adduction deformity of the thumb.

Note: A test that is frequently used to determine the strength of the adductor pollicis is the ability to hold a piece of paper between the thumb and second metacarpal. However, an individual with a well-developed adductor, the bulk of the muscle itself prevents close approximation of these parts.

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