Proper Crutch Fitting and Usage
Proper crutch fitting is essential in order to minimize pressure and weight on an injured leg. They are a common assistive device used after injury or surgery. Your physical therapist can teach you how to properly size your crutches.
Before using crutches, it is important to be instructed by a healthcare professional as to how to properly use them. This should include proper crutch positioning and sizing. Proper crutch fitting is important for safe crutch use as well as to prevent possible nerve damage in your arms or hands. Here are some simple but very useful tips:
- When standing up straight, the top of your crutches should be about 1-2 inches below your armpits.
- The handgrips of the crutches should be even with the top of your hip line.
- Your elbows should be slightly bent when you hold the hand grips.
- To avoid damage to the nerves and blood vessels in your armpit, your weight should rest on your hands, not on the underarm supports.
Lean forward slightly and put your crutches about one foot in front of you. Begin your step as if you were going to use the injured foot or leg but, instead, shift your weight to the crutches. Bring your body forward slowly between the crutches. Finish the step normally with your good leg. When your good leg is on the ground, move your crutches ahead in preparation for your next step. Always look forward, not down at your feet.
Locate a sturdy chair that won’t slide backward when you sit down. Back up to it and put both crutches in one hand, leaning on them slightly and placing your injured foot in front of you. Use the other hand to steady yourself against the chair and lower yourself into the seat.
Going Up Stairs
Lead with your good foot when you go up stairs. Face the stairs and hold the handrail with one hand. Tuck the crutches beneath your armpit on the other side. Step up with your good foot and keep your injured foot behind you. Lean on the crutches as you take the next step with your good fit and again bring your injured foot up from behind. You may want to ask a partner to help you the first few times you take the stairs since it can be tricky to keep your balance.
If you go up stairs without a railing, place a crutch under each arm. Step up with your good foot, bring your injured foot up, then put your weight on the crutches.
Going Down Stairs
Go down stairs with your injured foot in front of you. Hold the crutches under one armpit and grasp the handrail with your other hand. Carefully hop down to the next step. Hop down one step at a time until you reach the bottom. If the steps don’t have a handrail, lower your crutches to the stair below, move your injured leg down, then step down with your other foot with your weight on the hand grips. To reduce the risk of accidentally taking a topple, you can also seat yourself on the top step, holding your injured foot in front of you, and use your hands to support yourself as you scoot down the steps one stair at a time. You’ll have to ask someone to bring the crutches down for you.