How to Use Crutches Properly and Avoid Straining Your Body

Injure your knee or break a leg and you are likely to return home with crutches. If it’s your first time, chances are you’ll struggle to use them. This could put a limit on your mobility or even impede the recovery.

As a rule, you need decent flexibility and strength in the upper body to move using crutches. Your injured leg also has to be isolated. Otherwise, you might fall and get hurt even more.

This is why it’s crucial to understand how to use crutches properly. This article provides you with a few tips and tricks to help you adjust to using crutches.

Adjusting Crutches

Features like size, padding, and grips are important when you first get the crutches. Each element needs to perfectly fit your body. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to move, so the first thing to do is adjust the crutches.

Height

When you are standing, the crutches should be an inch or two below your armpit, but no more than that. The ones you get might need some adjustments to reach the required height.

You should stand straight and see if you need to increase or decrease the height. There is either a butterfly nut or a special pin to remove and make the adjustment.

Handles

With the height in place, you can move on to adjusting the handles. They need to be positioned to match your hip with a slight bend in the elbows when you hold the handles.

Grips and Padding

Ample cushioning is required on the grips and the armpit rest. You also need to ensure that the base, which comes in contact with the floor, hasn’t been worn out too much.

Replace the parts that seem to be worn out or lack sufficient cushioning. If you don’t do it, you will likely experience pain from using crutches.

Using Crutches

Once you are done with all the adjustments, it’s time to practice using the crutches. The goal is to find the easiest and most comfortable way to get up from a chair, walk, and go up and down the stairs, which are the skills you’ll need during the recovery process.

Here are some tips to help you master the routine.

Getting Up

First, hold both crutches in the hand on your injured side. For example, if your left leg is broken, hold the crutches with your left hand. It’s important to hold them by the handle, not the armpit rest or any other part.

When getting up from a chair, grab the hand rest with the opposite hand so that you can put your weight on the uninjured leg. At this point, you can push yourself into the standing position.

Walking

Don’t forget to take things slowly while walking with crutches.

Move the crutches simultaneously no more than 18 inches in front of you while taking short steps. Your body should swing forward as if you are trying to step on the leg that’s injured. However, the weight goes to the crutches instead of the injured leg. Move the good leg in front to support your weight as you take each step.

The top of the crutches mustn’t touch your armpits since it can cause irritation in the area. Worse yet, leaning on the top of the crutches too much could cause nerve damage in the armpit area and result in even more pain.

Remember, you are supporting the weight with your hands, not the armpits.

Stairs

Stairs are the biggest challenge most people face when they start using crutches. Initially, they might seem like an insurmountable obstacle. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to ascend and descend the stairs safely.

Going Up

You have two options when going up the stairs. The first one is to use the handrail as you climb. Hold the handrail with one hand and place both crutches in the other hand. Support your weigh on the crutches and the handrail, and lead with your uninjured leg.

Climbing stairs where there’s no handrail is a bit trickier. You should stand as close to the first step as possible with the crutches on the ground, not the step. Place your weight on the crutches and move the uninjured foot onto the step. Move the crutches up once your foot is firm on the step.

Going Down

Descending the stairs is a bit different and depends on whether or not you can bear a little weight on the leg you’ve injured.

Those who are not allowed to bear any weight need to hop down using the good leg. Put the crutches on the lower step and make sure your weight is supported. Place the injured leg in front and gently hop using the good leg.

You can also use the handrail in a similar way to how you use it when ascending. It is always best to have someone to help you until you feel strong enough to do it on your own.

If your injured leg can support some weight, you should step down with it. When the leg touches the lower step, quickly move the good leg and shift the weight.

Maintaining proper balance is also important when you go up or down the stairs. You should avoid leaning forward or backward too much to prevent toppling.

And again, it is crucial to take things slowly and have some rest before you take the next step.

Extra Tips

You might be compelled to look at your feet, but you shouldn’t. No matter where you walk, you always need to look ahead.

Make sure the top section of the crutches is placed tightly against the sides of your torso. This way you allow your hands to absorb the weight better.

The environment needs to be crutch-proof as well. There shouldn’t be any rugs, cords, or other items you might tip over. At the same time, all the items you need have to be at hand.

Get a backpack or a messenger bag when you get out of the house. They allow you easy access without having to put down the crutches.

Ask a friend or a family member to help you get everything in order. You’ll still feel weak from the injury in the first days, so it’s best to have someone around.

The Last Step

The full recovery from a leg injury often takes a few weeks. During that time, the crutches are likely to become your best friend.

You should thus take these tips on how to use crutches properly and practice as much as you can. Expect it to be difficult in the beginning, especially with stairs. But if you move slowly and have some help, there is very little risk of falling.

 

References:

https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/recovery/how-to-use-crutches-canes-and-walkers
https://www.ortho.wustl.edu/content/Education/3628/Patient-Education/Educational-Materials/How-to-Fit-and-Use-Crutches.aspx
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000344.htm

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