How to make using crutches more comfortable

Joint Health

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Aug 11, 2021

When you get an injury that needs crutches, everything may feel completely new to you.

You may feel awkward with crutches and wonder just how long you have to go through this. Carl Hartmann, an orthopedic technologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple, offers a few tips.

“My role as an orthopedic technologist is to assist the surgeon in direct patient care, both in the clinic and operating room setting,” Carl said. He regularly works with a number of patients who need crutches.

Why you need crutches

If you’ve had an injury to one of your lower limbs, chances are you’ll need crutches. These injuries commonly include:

  • Broken leg
  • Sprained or broken ankle
  • Knee problems
  • Any surgery to a lower extremity
  • Amputations

“We have a large patient population that is required to be non-weight-bearing for a period of time,” Carl said.

There are many people who many need to be on crutches anywhere from a few weeks to months. You may have to use a crutch to keep the weight off of your limb, or perhaps you need assistance walking.

If you walk with extreme difficulty, crutches can help. People with leg or foot pain or injury, weak muscles or an unstable gait can use crutches to get around. Regaining upright body movement aids circulation, assists kidney and lung functions, and helps prevent calcium loss from your bones.

Taking the weight off

It’s sometimes necessary to take weight off of an injury so it can heal appropriately. A crutch does two things to assist in this:

  • Reduce weight load on one of your legs
  • Broaden your support base to improve your balance and stability

“When a patient is asked to remain non-weight-bearing, they assume that they cannot let their foot touch the ground,” Carl said. “We let them know that is OK to set their foot on the ground to help them keep their balance. Losing your balance can lead to putting all your weight on your extremity.”

Getting the right crutches fit

If you’re on crutches, you may hear horror stories of bruised armpits or terrible falls. One of the key things to remember when you get crutches is to make sure they fit properly. Here are a few helpful tips:

  • The top of the crutch should rest about four fingers under the armpit, not above.
  • You should also allow your hand to rest as you flex your elbow.
  • Check that the handle setting allows the elbow to be flexed about 30 degrees. If the elbow is not at 30 degrees, adjust the handles up or down till the elbow has the proper angle.

“When the crutches are adjusted correctly, you should be able to bear your weight through your hands,” he said.

When you’re using crutches, make sure you never support yourself with your armpits but instead use the handgrips for support. If you are struggling with how to make crutches more comfortable, you can purchase cushioned covers. Or you may consider an alternative like a wheelchair, a walker or knee walker.

Most of all, remember to take it one day at a time. When walking, don’t try to move too quickly and listen to your body when it may need to rest. Remember, crutches are usually a short-term treatment, and you should be back on both feet in no time.

Discover more tips for using crutches safely and effectively.

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