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Using Crutches

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Topic Overview

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 reduce the stress on a painful joint or limb. Using a walking aid can help you be more safe and independent in your daily activities.

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 and safer.

General safety when using walking aids

  • Look straight ahead, not down at your feet.
  • Clear away small rugs, cords, or anything else that could cause you to trip, slip, or fall.
  • Be very careful around pets and small children. They can be unpredictable and get in your path when you least expect it.
  • Be sure the rubber tips on your walking aid are clean and in good condition to help prevent slipping. You can buy replacement tips from medical supply stores and drugstores. Ice tips are also available to use outdoors in winter weather.
  • Avoid slick conditions, such as wet floors and snowy or icy driveways. In bad weather, be especially careful on curbs and steps.
  • Never use your walking aid to help you stand up or sit down. Even if you still have one hand on your walking aid, put the other hand on the surface you are sitting on or the arm of your chair. Use that hand to guide you as you sit down and to push with as you stand up. If you are less steady on your feet, rest your walking aid securely nearby, so it doesn't fall and you can reach it easily. And use both hands on the sitting surface to help you sit down or stand up.
  • Always use your strong or uninjured leg to take the first step when you go up stairs or a curb (see instructions for curbs and stairs below). When you go back down, step with your weak or injured leg first. Remember "up with the good, and down with the bad" to help you lead with the correct leg. Ask for help if you feel unsure about going up and, especially, down stairs.

Using crutches

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.

Most 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.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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