How to lessen arm pain with crutches

Written by julie fletcher
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Arm and underarm pain is a common complaint by those who use crutches. The pain can be severe and even result in "crutch paralysis," in which the crutches push into the underarm and damage the brachial plexus nerves. While a number of products claim to reduce the stress and pressure caused by crutches under the arm, these are not needed if the crutches are used properly.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Place the crutches under your arms and stand normally. There should be enough room between the pad of the crutch and your underarm to fit two fingers easily. If there is not, lower the height of the crutches. The pad should never press into the underarm, as this causes pressure on the nerves, resulting in pain and numbness.

  2. 2

    Keep your elbows locked when taking a step using the crutches. Press downward onto the hand grips, allowing your forearms to carry your weight. Do not "hang" with the pads pressed into your underarms and swing forward.

  3. 3

    Rest when your wrists or arms are fatigued. Try this every few steps until your body is accustomed to the new movement. Do not force yourself to move faster or to go for long walks. Request a wheelchair when shopping to avoid overtaxing the arm muscles and possibly tearing or spraining your tendons.

Tips and warnings

  • If you cannot support your body well with your arms, a very thick foam pad for under the arm may help.
  • Do not over swing your body. This can you to fall, tear a bicep or even dislocate a shoulder.
  • Some injuries are considered "nonweight bearing." This means you must use the crutches and your arms to replace the action of the injured leg, not just for balance.
  • Only your doctor can determine if you may place weight on the injured limb. Even if the area feels better, use your crutches and arms to bear your weight until your doctor tells you otherwise.
  • Leaning with your underarms on the crutches and throwing your gait from the injured leg to the healthy leg can cause hip pain. This can be resolved by using the crutches properly and is not permanent.

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