Using Crutches after Lower Limb Amputation

As you become mobile again after amputation surgery, you’ll need to use a walking aid to get around. Walking aids help prevent falls, which can seriously damage your wound or cause other injuries. At first, you’ll likely use a wheelchair. As your balance improves, you may start using crutches. A physical therapist will teach you how to use crutches safely. Follow all instructions from the physical therapist closely.

Walking with crutches

Woman with amputated leg holding crutches with tips in front of her.

Woman with amputated leg, standing between crutches.

There are two types of crutches: forearm and underarm. You and your physical therapist will decide which type will work best for you. 

  • As you’re standing, start with the crutches about 12 inches in front of your body.

  • Press down on the handgrips. Support your weight on your hands, no matter which type of crutches you’re using.

  • If using underarm crutches, position the pads of crutches against the sides of your chest. (Don’t press the pads into your underarms.)

  • Lift your intact limb and gently swing your foot forward.

  • Land your foot in between the crutches, keeping your knee slightly bent.

  • Transfer your weight back to your foot.

  • Reach forward with the crutches to take the next step.

Moving through doorways

  • To push a door open, stand sideways. Push the door open with your body. Plant the tip of the nearest crutch inside the doorway to act as a doorstop. Keep the crutch in place to hold the door open as you pass through.

  • To pull a door open, stand to the side. Get your balance and pull the door fully open with one hand. Plant the tip of the nearest crutch inside the door to act as a doorstop. Keep the crutch close to the door to hold it open as you pass through.

Note: Avoid revolving doors while using crutches.

Sitting down

  • Position yourself in front of the chair, keeping your residual limb slightly forward.

  • Hold both crutches in one hand, on the side of your residual limb.

  • Grasp the armrest or side of the chair with your free hand.

  • Lower yourself onto the front of the chair, then slide back.

  • To get up, reverse the steps above.

Note: Look for sturdy chairs with solid arms. If you use a chair that swivels or has wheels, back it against something stable before sitting.

Crutches and steps

Climbing and descending steps or stairs with crutches after leg amputation requires special care. Consult your physical therapist for instructions and safety tips.

Home safety tips

Making a few changes at home can reduce hazards and help prevent falls. Ask a family member or friend to make these changes before you arrive home.

  • Remove objects that could cause you to trip, such as area rugs and loose cords.

  • Store supplies between waist and shoulder level. This will help you maintain balance as you reach for things.

  • Make sure all rooms are well lit.

  • Move all electrical cords out of the way or tape them securely to the floor.

  • Pick up clutter. Keep floors clear at all times.

  • Prepare a bedroom or sleeping area on the main level if you normally sleep upstairs.