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A walking aid—a walker, crutches, or a cane—helps
substitute for a decrease in strength, range of motion, joint stability,
coordination, or endurance. It can also decrease the stress on a painful joint
or limb. Using a walking aid can help you be more safe and independent in your
Almost everyone has used a walking aid at some
time, even if it was just playing around with crutches that belonged to someone
else. As a result, most people think they know how to use this equipment. But
there are some simple principles that will make using your walking aid easier
Crutches allow you to take some or
all the weight off of one leg. They can also be used as an added support if you
have some injury or condition of both legs. Your doctor will recommend crutches
only if you have good balance, strength, and endurance.
people use axillary crutches, which go up under the arms. If you are going to
use crutches for an extended period, your doctor may recommend crutches that
clip around your forearms. The same walking instructions will work for either
kind of crutches.
Note that when you are standing still with your
crutches, they should be slightly in front of you, so the crutches and your
feet form a triangle. Hold the crutches close enough to your body so you can
push straight down on them, but leave room between the crutches for your body
to pass through. Do not rest your underarms on the tops of your crutches,
because you could damage a nerve that goes under your arm.
your crutches fit you. When you stand up in your normal posture, there should
be space for two or three fingers between the top of the crutch and your
underarm. When you let your hands hang down, the hand grips should be at your
wrists. When you put your hands on the hand grips, your elbows should be
When you are confident using the crutches, you can move
the crutches and your injured leg at the same time, then push straight down on
the crutches as you step past the crutches with your strong leg, as you would
in normal walking.
If you need to keep all the weight off the
first with another person nearby to steady you if needed.
Try this first
with another person nearby to steady you if needed.
If the stairs
have a good sturdy banister, you can hold the banister with one hand. Put both
crutches together and use them with the other hand. If there is no banister or
you do not think the banister is sturdy enough, use the crutches normally,
holding one in each hand.
April 8, 2011
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & David A. Fleckenstein, PT, MPT - Physical Therapy
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