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Using crutches: A guide to mobility

Using crutches: A guide to mobility

Apria Editorial |

Using crutches is a common practice for individuals recovering from injuries, surgeries, or experiencing mobility issues. These simple devices can significantly enhance your mobility and aid in the healing process. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the proper use of crutches, the different types available, tips for maintaining your safety, and much more.

Types of Crutches

There are various types of crutches designed to cater to different needs:

Axillary crutches are the most common type and are often used for temporary injuries. They have a cushioned underarm support and handgrips.

Forearm crutches are often used by patients with ongoing mobility problems. These are also known as elbow crutches and offer more stability and support for those with long-term mobility issues. They have cuffs that go around the forearm.

Platform crutches are an excellent choice for individuals with limited hand strength or dexterity. They feature a platform instead of handgrips for added comfort and stability.

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Crutches are often recommended for individuals who experience mobility issues due to various reasons, including:

Injuries: Crutches are commonly used by people recovering from injuries such as sprained ankles, fractures, or ligament tears. They provide support and reduce weight-bearing on the affected limb, aiding in the healing process.

Surgical Procedures: After certain surgeries, such as knee or hip surgeries, using crutches may be necessary during the initial stages of recovery. They help patients regain mobility while preventing strain on the surgical site.

Long-term Mobility Issues: Some individuals have long-term mobility challenges due to conditions like arthritis, muscular dystrophy, or paralysis. In such cases, forearm crutches or other mobility aids may be recommended to enhance daily mobility and independence.

Temporary Disabilities: Temporary disabilities, such as those caused by temporary loss of balance or coordination, can also necessitate the use of crutches to prevent falls and ensure safety.

Proper Adjustment and fit for your crutches

Before you start using crutches, it's crucial to ensure they are properly adjusted to your height and comfort:

1. Measure the Crutches
Start by adjusting the height of the crutches. The handgrips should be at hip level, and there should be a slight bend in your elbows when holding the handgrips.

2. Check the Underarm Pads
For axillary crutches, ensure that the underarm pads are positioned comfortably and do not press against your armpits.

3. Secure the Cuffs
If you're using forearm crutches, make sure the cuffs are snug but not too tight around your forearms. You should be able to slide your hand out easily.

How to use crutches

Once your crutches are properly fitted, it’s time to start walking with them. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Stand up straight and place the crutches about one foot in front of you.
  2. Lean forward slightly and place the crutches under your arms.
  3. Step forward with your injured foot, keeping your weight on your good foot.
  4. Swing your good foot forward, past the crutches, and place it on the ground.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 to continue walking.

How To Use Crutches On Stairs

Going up and down stairs with crutches can be challenging, but it’s important to know how to do it safely. Here’s how:

Going Up Stairs

  1. Stand facing the stairs and place the crutches on the step above you.
  2. Step up with your good foot first, followed by your injured foot.
  3. Bring the crutches up to the step you’re standing on.

Going Down Stairs

  1. Stand facing the stairs and place the crutches on the step below you.
  2. Step down with your injured foot first, followed by your good foot.
  3. Bring the crutches down to the step you’re standing on.

Using Crutches Safely

Proper technique is crucial to prevent accidents and further injury:

1. Maintain Good Posture
Stand up straight and avoid leaning forward while using crutches. Keep your weight evenly distributed between your arms and unaffected leg.

2. Take Small Steps
Take small, controlled steps to maintain balance and stability. Avoid rushing or taking large strides.

3. Go Slow on Stairs
When navigating stairs, use handrails whenever possible, and take one step at a time. It's often safer to have someone assist you on stairs.

4. Watch for Hazards
Be mindful of obstacles like rugs, cords, or wet surfaces. Crutches can easily get caught or slip on these surfaces.

Common Mistakes When Using Crutches

Despite their benefits, using crutches can be challenging, and people often make common mistakes that can hinder their recovery or cause accidents. Three common mistakes include:

Improper Fit: Failing to adjust crutches to the correct height can lead to discomfort and reduced effectiveness. Crutches should be adjusted to align with your height, with handgrips at hip level and a slight bend in your elbows.

Neglecting Safety: Some users may become overconfident and neglect safety precautions. This can include attempting to move too quickly, not watching for obstacles, or not using handrails when going up or down stairs.

Incorrect Technique: Using incorrect walking techniques, such as placing too much weight on the crutches or leaning forward, can strain the upper body and lead to discomfort or injury. It's essential to receive proper guidance on crutch usage from a healthcare professional.

Addressing these common mistakes and understanding who can benefit from crutches and their alternatives is crucial for a safe and effective recovery process.

Caring for Your Crutches

To ensure the longevity of your crutches, follow these maintenance tips:

  • Regularly Inspect your crutches for any signs of wear and tear, such as loose bolts or worn-out tips. Replace any damaged parts promptly.
  • Wipe down your crutches regularly to prevent the buildup of dirt and grime. Clean the handgrips and underarm pads for hygiene.
  • When not in use, store your crutches in a dry, cool place to prevent damage or warping.

Alternatives to Crutches

While crutches are effective mobility aids, there are alternatives available depending on the individual's needs and circumstances:

Knee Scooters: Knee scooters provide a hands-free alternative to crutches. They allow individuals to rest their injured leg on a padded platform with wheels, offering greater mobility and stability.

Walking Aids: Walkers and rollators with wheels can be used when crutches are not suitable. These provide more support and stability, making them ideal for those with balance issues or the elderly.

Cane: A single-point cane can be a suitable alternative for individuals with minor mobility issues or those recovering from minor injuries. It provides additional stability while requiring less upper body strength than crutches.

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Using crutches properly

Using crutches can be a temporary but crucial part of the healing process. When used correctly, they provide invaluable support and mobility. Remember to choose the right type of crutches, ensure a proper fit, use them safely, and maintain them for longevity. With these tips in mind, you can navigate your journey to recovery with confidence.


How do I know which type of crutches is right for me?
The choice of crutches depends on your specific needs and mobility level. Consult with your healthcare provider for personalized recommendations.

Can I decorate my crutches to make them more appealing?
Yes, you can personalize your crutches with colorful covers or designs to make them more visually appealing.

Are there any exercises to strengthen my upper body while using crutches?
Yes, there are exercises you can perform to maintain upper body strength. Consult a physical therapist for a tailored exercise routine.

How long will I need to use crutches after surgery?
The duration of crutch use varies depending on the type of surgery and your individual recovery progress. Your surgeon will provide guidance on this.

Can I travel with crutches?
Yes, you can travel with crutches. Consider contacting your airline or transportation provider in advance to arrange assistance if needed.

As a leading supplier of durable and home medical equipment (DME and HME), ApriaHome sources and distributes a wide range of treatment solutions, including assistive mobility equipment and home medical solutions.

We're here to support you as you work toward your improved health and well-being. We strive to meet your ever-evolving healthcare requirements with individualized attention and premium quality treatment solutions.

Looking to add mobility supplies? Browse our premium solutions and let us help you get the most out of every day.

Looking for advice? Our helpful agents are on call at (800) 780-1508 between 8:00 am - 10:00 pm EST daily. Get in touch today.


LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Material in this newsletter is only: (1) provided for general health education and informational purposes, and to provide references to other resources; it may not apply to you as an individual. While Apria believes that the information provided through this communication is accurate and reliable, Apria cannot and does not make any such guarantee. It is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical advice, evaluation, diagnosis, services or treatment (collectively, "medical treatment"). Please see your healthcare provider for medical treatment related to you and your specific health condition(s). Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read on or accessed through this website. Reading this newsletter should not be construed to mean that you have a healthcare provider/patient relationship with Apria.