Using crutches can be a challenge after a surgery or serious injury, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s important to properly size your crutches to avoid chafing and discomfort that can occur with incorrect use. Even if you’ve already been fitted for crutches, make sure your crutch pads, handgrips, and crutch length are set at the proper distance.
The crutch pads (tops of crutches) should be 1½” to 2″ (about two fingers width) below the armpits with shoulders relaxed. The hand grip should be placed so that your elbow is slightly bent. It should allow you to fully extend your elbow when you take a step. For total crutch length, it must equal the distance from your armpit to about 6″ in front of a shoe.
When walking with crutches, begin in the “tripod position.” This position is standing with the crutch tips about 4″ to 6″ to the side in front of each foot, and on your “good” foot that is weight-bearing. If your foot and ankle surgeon has told you to avoid ALL weight-bearing, you will need sufficient upper body strength to support your weight with just your arms and shoulders.
Managing chairs with crutches can be safe and easy. Make sure the chair is stable, has arms and back support, and will not roll or slide. Stand with the backs of your legs touching the front of the seat. Step 1: Place both crutches in one hand, grasping them by the handgrips. Step 2: Hold onto the crutches (on one side) and the chair arm (on the other side) for balance and stability while lowering yourself to a seated position or raising yourself from the chair to stand up.
When it comes to managing stairs without crutches, the safest way is to use your seat, not your crutches. To go upstairs, seat yourself on a low step. Move your crutches upstairs as close as possible or until reaching the top of the staircase. In the seated position, reach behind you with both arms. Use your arms and the weight-bearing foot/leg to lift yourself up one step. Repeat this process one step at a time. To go downstairs, seat yourself on the top step. Move your crutches downstairs by sliding them to the lowest possible point on the stairway. In the seated position, reach behind you with both arms. Use your arms and weight-bearing foot/leg to lift yourself down one step. Repeat this process one step at a time.
It’s essential to follow rules for safety and comfort when using crutches. Don’t look down and always look straight ahead when walking. Don’t use crutches if you feel dizzy or drowsy. Avoid walking on slippery surfaces like snow, ice or rain. Don’t put weight on the affected foot unless advised by your doctor. Make sure your crutches have rubber tips and wear well-fitting, low-heel shoes. Position the crutch handgrips correctly and keep the crutch pads 11/2″ to 2″ below your armpits. Always call your doctor if you experience any difficulties or have questions relating to the use of crutches.
In conclusion, proper use of crutches can significantly speed up the recovery process after a surgery or injury. It’s crucial to size and adjust the crutches to avoid discomfort and complications. Follow the rules set out in this article, and if there are any doubts or questions, always refer to your doctor or podiatrist, such as Dr Gilbert Huang DPM, for additional guidance.