Over the years, you probably saw a person on crutches countless times but never once paused to give it another thought.
Now that fate has put you in a place where crutches will be your saving grace.
You are surprised by how little you know about one of the most common mobility aid.
The variety of options and styles available has you looking for an answer to the obvious question – what would be the right crutch for you?
Choosing the right crutch makes a big difference to one’s safety and stability.
Proper usage and the correct size of the crutches may reduce the risk of falls or further damage to joints.
As a substitute for the injured leg, a crutch broadens the support base to maintain balance and stability.
Hence, arm strength, posture, coordination, and balance must be factored in before choosing the right crutch.
Lower limb injuries, such as ankle sprain, broken ankle, cast care, knee injury, broken foot or toe, etc., usually require a crutch.
Crutches are also used by amputees, paralytics and people with disabilities who have trouble walking.
They allow the user an upright posture and help maneuver in places inaccessible to wheelchairs.
Crutches help bear the weight of an individual, and therefore, they must be custom-fitted.
The correct choice and application help minimize complications such as a weakened hand, wrist and forearm muscle and underarm nerve damage.
What are the types of Crutches?
Two of the most common types of crutches are underarm crutches and forearm crutches.
The type of injury and recommendation of trained personnel helps you choose between the two crutch types.
What are Underarm Crutches?
Earlier, underarm crutches (or auxiliary crutches) had only pads to support the armpits, but today many of these come equipped with shock-absorbing rubber bars that can be comfortably placed under the arm while walking.
Underarm crutches are suitable for temporary injuries, disabilities such as ankle sprains and knee injuries or recovery from a surgical procedure.
Little training is required to use these crutches, and they are inexpensive.
Two simple functionalities are height adjustments and handgrip height adjustments.
Correct size and fit are highly important as the wrong choice can affect muscles and nerves under the arm.
Things to remember when using a crutch:
For safety purposes, crutches must be measured correctly to avoid falls and injuries
There should be a distance of 2-3 fingers between the crutch pad and the armpit (around 5 cm)
The elbow must be flexed at an angle of 30 degrees and be at par with the top of the pelvis when one holds the handle grip.
Bodyweight should be supported by the handgrips and not the underarms to avoid damaging the nerves.
Crutch tips should rest approximately 2 inches forward and 6 inches outside the feet to provide proper balance.
What are Forearm Crutches?
Forearm crutches have an open cuff that grips around the user’s forearm.
Also known as elbow crutch or the Lofstr and crutch, they are used by amputees and people with lifelong or permanent disabilities owing to polio or multiple sclerosis.
These crutches are easier to use as they offer greater freedom of movement, and people can choose to navigate over rough terrains or up and down stairways.
Things to remember while using a Crutch:
The crutch should be 6inches (15cm) in front of your foot and 2-4 inches (5-10cm) to the side of the foot
The height of the handgrips should be at wrist level
Cuff should be adjusted 1 inch below the elbow
If the height is properly adjusted, the elbow will be flexed at 30 degrees when you hold the handgrips
For a first-time user, it is safe to follow instructions from a designated health expert.
Research has shown that the wrist receives one to three times the body weight when swinging the crutches while walking, an extra load the upper body was not designed to sustain.
Thus when the need arises for using crutches, it is best to transition slowly into a routine with crutches to limit the additional stress on the wrists and avoid the risk of injury to another part of the body.
Accessories of Crutches
A wide range of accessories can enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of both underarm and forearm crutches.
Crutch tips – Crutch tips are the foundation of your crutches, and a faulty tip can result in slips and falls. There are multiple crutch tip options in latex crutch tips, ice crutch attachment, and many more.
Pads and covers – Pads and covers are usually used with underarm crutches where pads and covers such as gel pads, non-latex pads, fleece covers, and soft gel covers cover the shoulder rest. They offer great comfort and ease of use.
Grips are an important part of the crutch since a rough and uneasy grip can cause discomfort, rashes, and falls. Sturdy, high-quality grips can help enhance the experience by allowing easy use of the crutches.
Using Crutches on Stairs
Using the stairs with crutches can be a challenging task.
Technically, it is safest to go up and down the stair when seated, but many a time, it isn’t practical.
Going up the stairs with crutches (when seated):
Sit on a low step (back facing the top of the staircase)
Place the crutches as far up the stairs as your hand reaches
Reach behind with both the arms
Use your arms and a weight-bearing leg to move up one step
Repeat this procedure till you reach the top of the stairs
Going up the stairs with crutches (when standing):
Take a step up with your weight-bearing leg
Move your crutches to the next stair, one by one
Place your weight again on your weight-bearing leg
Move your weak/affected/injured leg upwards
Going down the stairs with crutches (when seated):
Sit on the top step (back should face the top of the staircase)
Slide the crutches down the stairs as far as you can
Reach behind you with both the arms
Use your arms and a weight-bearing leg to move down one step
Repeat this till you reach the bottom of the stairs
Going down the stairs with crutches (when standing):
Place your crutches one step down, holding one in each of your hand
Move your weak leg forward, followed by your weight-bearing leg
If there is a handrail, you can hold your crutches in one hand and the rail in the other
Whether you need it for a short or longer period, a well-chosen crutch will go a long way in mobility independence and an injury-free life.