If you have an injury to your lower body, you may need to use crutches to get around. While it is more common to use two crutches for support, there are times when your doctor or physical therapist may recommend using just one. In addition, if you are using two crutches it is safer to use just one crutch when going down stairs. There is a right and wrong way to use crutches, especially when using just one. Below are some common tips.
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Before using your crutch make sure it is set to the right height. Stand up straight and place the crutch under your arm. The crutch height should be set so that you can fit two to three fingers between the top of the crutch and your armpit.
Next check the hand grip. Let your arm hang down relaxed. The hand grip should be at the same height as your wrist. This means your wrist and elbow should be slightly bent when placing the hand on the hand grip. This prevents you from locking your wrist or elbow joint as you use the crutch.
Support your weight with your hands. You should not try to hold your body weight with your armpits, as you can cause nerve damage.
Be safe going up and down stairs. If you are using two crutches, you will need to learn how to go up and down stairs using just one crutch. Using two crutches to use stairs, especially when going down is very unsafe. Stand near the stair railing with your unaffected foot on the railing side and hold the railing. Place the crutch under the arm of the affected side.
To go up stairs, keep the crutch on the floor. Push off the crutch and the railing and lift yourself up to the first stair, landing on the unaffected side. Then bring the crutch up to the stair you are standing on. Continue up the rest of the stairs, by lifting yourself up fist and then bring the crutch.
To go downstairs, place the crutch on the stair below you. Support yourself on the crutch and the railing and carefully lower yourself down to the next step, landing on the unaffected side. Continue down the rest of the steps placing the crutch first and then lowering down.
Get up safely. Place the crutch in the hand of the affected side and use the hand grip. Slide all the way to the very end of the chair as this makes it easier to push up.
Lean forward from the hips and keep the back straight. Place your other hand on the arm of the chair. Push off the chair arm, the crutch hand grip and your foot on the unaffected side to come up.
To sit down, back up to the chair until you can feel the seat of the chair against the back of your knees. Hold the hand grip, with the crutch on the affected side. Reach the buttocks back and hold onto the arm of the chair.
Use the hand grip on the crutch and the arm of the chair to slowly lower yourself down to the edge of the chair, then slide back. Avoid crashing down into the chair, as this can lead to back and other injuries.
This process should also be used when getting in and out of bed.
When walking with just one crutch, hold the crutch on the opposite side of the affected leg. It is common to want to use the crutch on the injured side, however this just causes you to lean and put more pressure on the injury.
When stepping swing the crutch through as you step with the affected side. The crutch and your foot should hit the floor at the same time. Then step through with the unaffected leg
. By holding the crutch on the opposite side you can take weight off of the injured side and better support yourself as you walk.
If you are new to using a crutch, make sure your doctor or physical therapist shows you how to use it properly. You can make your injury worse and even create new injuries with a crutch that is used improperly.
Have someone nearby you when first learning, especially when using stairs or getting up and down out of a chair. Crutches take some time to get used to and to get your balance on.
The screws in your crutches can loosen over time. Check them regularly to make sure they are tight. Remove scatter rugs, keep your floors neat and picked up and immediately wipe up spills to avoid falls.
Tips and warnings
- Always have a professional medical provider teach you how to use your crutch and to fit it properly.
- Avoid going solely on advise from non medical professionals. Different injuries and conditions may require different instructions on using your crutch. No two injuries can be treated the same.
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