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.
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.
Be sure 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 slightly bent.
To walk using crutches
- Set the crutches at arm's length in front of you. Don't lean forward to reach farther.
- If you can put any weight on your weak or injured leg, move it forward, almost even with the crutches.
- Push straight down on the handles as you bring your good leg up, so it is even with the weak or injured leg. Keep all the weight on your hands and not on your underarms.
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 injured leg:
- Move your crutches forward, then push down on the hand grips and swing your strong leg forward almost up to the crutches. This is called "swing-to" gait, because you swing your body up to the crutches. Remember it's best to form a triangle with the tips of the crutches and your foot. It's harder to balance if they all line up.
- When you are strong and your balance is good, you can swing your body between the crutches and land the strong leg in front of them, so you take a bigger step. This is called "swing-through" gait.