Because of your injuries you will need crutches. These require fitting and training by a healthcare professional. It is very important that you feel safe using crutches and that you have practiced with assistance before going home. Make sure you tell your healthcare provider if you need more practice or if crutches do not seem to work for you.
Crutches are the most commonly used device for injuries to the lower part of the body because they allow the most mobility. All walking assistance devices require strength in your upper body but crutches require more coordination. If you are unable to use crutches then a cane or walker may be better.
- Remember these rules when using crutches:
- Always look straight ahead when you walk. Do not look down.
- Hold the top padded part of the crutches into your chest near your armpits. Grasp the padded hand grips and always support your weight with your arms and hands.
- Do not lean on the crutches with your armpit as this could cause nerve damage.
- Standing Up
Make sure you are in a stable chair. Move forward to the edge of the chair so that your “good” foot is flat on the floor. Put both crutches together and hold the handgrips in one hand. Stretch the injured leg out straight and then use the crutches with one hand and the chair armrest with the other hand to push yourself into a standing position onto your “good” leg. Once you are standing, wait until you are steady before placing a crutch in each hand. Until you become good at standing, have someone assist you in case you lose your balance. When standing still, lean slightly forward with the crutches ahead of you and about 3 feet apart. Unless you are told otherwise, you should keep weight off your injured leg.
To begin crutch walking, balance yourself on your “good” leg. Move both crutches forward about the length of one step and place them firmly on the floor in front of you about 3 feet apart. Support your weight on the padded hand rests while leaning forward. Press the top of the crutches against your chest wall and not into your armpits. Be sure to hold the injured leg up off of the floor. When ready, swing the "good" leg forward about one step length past the crutches while supporting your weight on the padded hand grips. Be careful not to go too far. Transfer your weight onto the "good" leg then bring both crutches forward about the length of one step. Repeating this motion will allow you to move fairly quickly without the use of your injured leg. Keep practicing until you become good at crutch walking.
- Sitting Down
Make sure the chair you are about to sit on is stable. Walk in front of the chair such that you are facing away from it. Move back a little at a time until the back of your “good” leg is nearly touching the seat. Keeping your weight on the “good” leg, move both crutches to one hand holding onto the handgrips. Lean forward, bend your “good” knee, and move your injured leg out forward. Sit down slowly while using your free hand to reach for the chair’s armrest for support. Place the crutches where you can easily get them. Never pivot, even on your “good” leg. This could cause you to fall or injure your “good” leg.
- Navigating Stairs, Curbs and Door Steps
Only attempt this once you are very comfortable with regular crutch walking and only when someone is there to steady you should you begin to lose your balance. Hold on to a stable hand railing with one hand and both crutches in the other hand or have someone carry the loose crutch for you. It does not matter which side the handrail is on. If there is no handrail, you can use both crutches. Using only crutches is the same as the railing method but maintaining your balance can be difficult. The crutch-only method is not recommended until you have become very good at crutch walking. Be sure to only take one step at a time. A simple rule to remember for crutches when navigating stairs or curbs: up with the “good” leg and down with the “bad”.
- Going Up Stairs or Curbs
Walk close to the first step with the crutches slightly behind you. Push down on the handrail and the crutch and step up with the "good" leg. You may have to make a short hop to do this if you are not allowed to place any weight on the injured leg. Lean forward and bring the injured leg and the crutch up beside the "good" leg. Repeat this until you have climbed up all of the steps. Remember, the "good" leg goes up first and the crutches move with the injured leg. The person helping you should stand behind and to your side that is away from the railing.
- Going Down Stairs or Curbs
Walk to the edge of the first step. While standing and balancing on the “good” leg, place both crutches in one hand and then down on the step below. Be sure to support your weight by leaning on the crutches and handrail. Bring the injured leg forward, then the "good" leg down to the same step as the crutches. Remember crutches go down first with the injured leg. The person helping you should stand in front and to your side that is away from the railing.
- Sitting Method for Navigating Stairs
A safer way to get up and down stairs is to sit down. To go up steps, sit down on the second or third step. Push with your “good” leg below while pushing up with both arms on the step above to move your bottom to the next step. When you get to the top of the stairs you may need to use the “scooting” method described later to get back up. To go down steps you first need to lower yourself to the floor near the top of the steps. Once seated, support yourself with your “good” leg on the second to next step below, and push with both arms on the step where you are sitting to move your bottom down to the next step. When you reach the bottom, pull yourself up to standing position using your crutches. It is helpful if someone can move your crutches and assist you in getting up and down. With practice it may be possible to manage on your own.
If You Start To Fall
If you start to fall and cannot get your balance, throw the crutches away from you. Try to fall onto your “good” side away from your injury and then break your fall with your arms. If uninjured, you can usually get back up by moving into a sitting position and scooting to a chair. Push with your arms and hands on the chair seat while pushing with the "good" leg to get up into the chair. You should not attempt to get back up if you are having significant pain. Call for assistance or dial 911 for an ambulance if necessary.
Safety Tips for Crutch Walking
- At first you may want to wear a training belt (or a strong regular belt) so others can assist you.
- Do not use crutches if you feel dizzy or drowsy.
Be careful on slick or wet surfaces like a kitchen or bathroom floor, snow, ice, or rainy conditions.
- Temporarily remove pets, throw rugs or other items from your home that might trip you.
- Do not hop around while holding onto furniture.
- Wear sneakers or rubber soled shoes that will not easily slip or come off.
- Be careful on ramps or slopes as they can be harder to walk up or down
- Do not remove any parts from your crutches especially the padding or rubber traction footings. Replace padding or footings that become damaged immediately. Make sure the screws and nuts remain tight.
- It is important to use your crutches correctly. If you feel any numbness or tingling in your arms, you are probably using the crutches incorrectly.
- A bedside toilet or toilet riser may be helpful.
- Always allow for extra time to get around. Children in school should be given permission to leave class early to avoid crowds when changing classes.
- Elevate the injured leg when sitting.
- Use a backpack to carry books or waist pouch to carry other items so that both hands are free.
- Call your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.
What We Have Learned
When using crutches, always look straight ahead when walking.
True or False
When climbing stairs, it’s up with the “good” leg and down with the “bad”.
True or False
Numbness and tingling in your arms or legs is normal.
True or False
When you first start using crutches you should have someone to assist you.
True or False
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