How to Use Crutches

An injury or any form of surgery performed in your foot, leg or ankle can make it difficult for you to get around without any assistance from others. It usually takes weeks for physical healing to occur. It limits your mobility especially when it comes to walking and climbing stairs.

Your doctor may recommend the use of a walking aid like crutches and canes while you are at your healing and recovery period. It can help you get around without putting any weight in your injured foot, assist with balance, and enable you to perform your daily activities more safely.

While some people may be comfortable using a cane, others have shown great results with learning how to properly use crutches.

Important tips to remember while using crutches

Here are a few tips you can follow to avoid unnecessary injuries while using crutches:

  • Get your crutches fitted to avoid injury. The crutch pads should be about 1 1/2 to 2 inches below your armpits. The handgrips should be positioned so that your elbow has a slight bend.
  • Bear weight with your hands and not your armpits. Leaning on the crutch pads with your armpits could damage the nerves underneath your arms.
  • Wear low, supportive shoes when using crutches to avoid tripping. Don’t wear high-heels or slippers when using crutches. Stick with flats or sneakers.
  • Take small steps when walking on slippery surfaces, and walk slowly when moving from one surface to another.
  • Steer clear of any rugs, electrical cords, or loose mats when using crutches to avoid injury.
  • Don’t carry anything in your hands while using crutches. Carry personal items in your pocket, backpack, or a fanny pack.
  • Only use crutches in well-lit rooms. Place night lights in your hallways, bedrooms, and bathrooms to move around safely at night.

The guidelines in using a crutch depend on your ability to bear weight in your injured leg. Your doctor will identify your weight-bearing capability after performing the procedure. Take note that doctors will not recommend the use of crutches if both legs are injured. You need to be able to put weight on at least one of your legs.

  • Non-weight bearing

Non-weight bearing means that you’re unable to put weight on the injured leg. If your foot and ankle surgeon advised you to avoid putting weight on your injured leg, you will need sufficient upper-body strength to support all your weight with just your arms and shoulders.

To do this, you need to do the following steps:

    1. Place on crutch under each arm and grip the crutch handles.
    2. Stand on your uninjured leg, with your leg slightly bent and raised off the floor.
    3. Advance the crutches about a foot in front of you.
    4. Move your injured leg forward.
    5. Supporting your weight with your hands, step forward normally with your uninjured leg. Once your uninjured leg is on the floor, advance your crutch forward to take the next step.
  • Weight-bearing

Depending on the injury or surgery, you may be able to put some weight on your injured leg. Compared to those non-weight bearing cases, using crutches can be easier for you.

For weight-bearing injuries, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Place one crutch under the arm and grip the handles.
  2. Stand in between the crutches with both feet on the floor.
  3. Advance both crutches about one foot in front of you. Step forward with the injured leg, placing your foot lightly on the floor.
  4. Step normally with the uninjured leg, and then advance the crutches forward to take the next step.

Before sitting, you need to make sure that the chair you’ll use must have arms and back support. It needs to be stable and will not roll or slide to make sure that your safety will not be compromised.

To get into and out of a chair safely, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Stand with the back of your legs touching the front of the seat.
  2. Place both crutches in one hand, grasping them by the handgrips.
  3. Hold on to the crutches on one side and the armchair on the other side for balance and stability while lowering yourself to a seated position or raising yourself from the chair to stand up.

Going up and down is a challenge for people with foot and ankle injury especially those who are using crutches to aid this problem. However, learning the proper technique can help you get up and down safely.

Do these steps based on the following situations:

  • Going up the stairs with the use of a handrail
  1. Hold the handrail with one hand, and place both crutches under your other arm.
  2. Stand at the bottom of the stairwell with your weight on your uninjured leg. Lift your injured leg off the floor.
  3. Holding the handrail, step up with your uninjured leg.
  4. Lift your uninjured foot and both crutches up to the step. Keep your uninjured foot off the step, but place your crutches on the step.
  5. Climb one step at a time.
  6. Take the next step with your uninjured leg and repeat the process.
  • Going down the stairs with the use of a handrail
  1. Hold the handrail with one hand and place both crutches under the other arm.
  2. Lower your crutches to the step below, then step down with your injured leg, followed by your uninjured leg.
  3. Repeat as you proceed down the stairs.
  • Going up the stairs without a handrail
  1. Place on crutch under each arm, bearing your weight with your hands.
  2. Step on the first step with your uninjured leg and then lift the crutches and your uninjured leg to the same step.
  3. Repeat and move slowly.
  • Going down the stairs without a handrail
  1. Place on crutch under each arm.
  2. Lower the crutches and the uninjured leg to the step below, and then step down with your uninjured leg.
  3. Repeat and proceed down the stairs.

Take note that using crutches to go up and down the stairs requires strength and balance. If you don’t feel comfortable enough, you can sit on the lower or top step and then scoot up or down the stairwell. Remember to keep your injured leg extended while doing the process.

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