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How to Use Crutches - Tips for Using Crutches Safely

How to Use Crutches

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Updated May 28, 2014

Low section view of three people walking in the corridor
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Using crutches isn't as easy as it appears. It actually takes some instruction, a bit of coordination and then practice. If you're unfortunate enough to have a lower limb injury or fracture that requires you to use crutches during your recovery, these tips may help you use your crutches safely, and with confidence.

How to Fit Your Crutches
Fitting your crutches is the first step to using them comfortably and safely.

  • Ask your doctor, therapist or casting professional to fit your crutches and provide you with one-on-one instruction.
  • The top of your crutches should be about one to two inches below your armpits when you are standing upright.
  • The hand grips of the crutches should be even with your hip.
  • Your elbows should bend a bit when you use the hand grips.
  • Your shoulders should lean forward slightly while using the crutches.
  • Keep the top of the crutches tightly against your sides and use your hands to absorb the weight.
  • Don't let your armpits rest on the top of the crutches; this can irritate the skin in your armpits.

General Safety While Using Crutches

  • Watch out for and remove loose items on the floor such as rugs, electrical cords, toys or anything else that you could trip over.
  • Simplify your household to keep the items you need handy. Put everything else out of the way.
  • Carry a backpack or sling-type messenger bag so you have a place to put things that are easy to reach and out of the way.
  • Take short steps and rest often.
  • Keep most of your weight on your hands rather than on your armpits.

Walking with Crutches

  • Lean forward slightly and move both crutches about one foot in front of you.
  • Shift your weight to the crutches and sway forward.
  • Swing your good leg forward between the crutches and place it in front of your on the ground.
  • Shift your weight to your good leg and start your next step by moving the crutches about one foot in front of you.
  • Keep in mind your crutches take up more room on the sides and can easily get caught on things, so keep a wide birth around you.
  • Look ahead to where you are walking and don't look at your feet.

Standing Up with Crutches

  • Move to the front edge of the chair.
  • Hold both crutches in the hand on your injured side.
  • Hold the arm of the chair with the free hand.
  • Put your weight on your good leg, push yourself up with your arms and stand on the good leg.

Going Up Stairs with Crutches

  • If there is no handrail, use both crutches and lead with the good leg. Stand close to the step and with your weight on the crutches, lift the uninjured foot up to the first step. Once your weight is on the good leg, bring the crutches up to the same step. Repeat this process on each step.
  • If there is a handrail, use it. Hold both crutches in one hand, hold the handrail with the other, and with all your weight on your arms, bring the good leg up one step. Then bring the crutches up to that step and repeat for each step.

Going Down Stairs with Crutches
Walking down stairs while on crutches is one of the most challenging and dangerous areas of mastering the use of crutches. Be patient and deliberate while learning.

  • To go down stairs, hold your injured foot out in front of you and hop down each stair on your good foot.
  • Use the crutches or handrails as above.
  • Take it one step at a time.
  • Ask someone to "spot" you the first time you try this.
  • If this is too difficult, try sitting on the stairs and inch yourself down each step.

Source

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, How to Use Crutches, Canes, and Walkers.

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