A procedure has been developed to measure the elastic modulus of small, irregularly shaped specimens without significantly disturbing the specimen's internal or surface structure. This procedure was developed to measure the average elastic modulus of isolated trabeculae from human cancellous bone tissue. The procedure combines direct testing of a cantilever beam‐type specimen, along with finite element modeling of the specimen and the testing conditions. Initial estimates for the bone tissue material properties are input into the finite element model; differences between the calculated finite element displacement and the experimentally observed displacement allows the actual material modulus to be determined. Machined aluminum and cortical bone specimens were used to test the accuracy and repeatability of the procedure. Manipulations of the finite element models were performed to examine the effect that mesh construction errors might have on the accuracy of the results. None of the parameters examined resulted in changes in the measured finite element displacements of greater than 8%. In tests on six trabecular bone speciments, an average elastic modulus of 7.8 GPa was calculated. Even taking into account the possible sources of error, this value remains significantly less than the accepted value for cortical bone.