August 28, 2021 - TCO
Crutches 101: Everything You Need to Know
Whether it comes to fitting your crutches the proper way or learning how to walk with them, we’ve created a four-part “Crutches 101” video series to help answer the most common questions we receive.
How to Fit Your Crutches
Whether you’re given standard crutches or the Mobileg style crutches, fitting them properly starts by making sure the top of the crutch is 2-3 fingers from the armpit to prevent nerve damage. So, no hanging on your armpits onto the top of the crutches and your elbows should be slightly bent. Also, make sure you’re adjusting the crutches with the shoes that you will be wearing. You may have to do quick adjustments occasionally if you change shoe height or are barefoot.
For the tried and true, standard crutches, stand tall with your arms by your side. Adjust the length of the crutches so that the top of the crutch is 2-3 finger widths below your armpit. The hand grips should be at your wrist creases. Adjust the hand grips to that level so that your elbow is slightly bent to about 30 degrees. The bottom of the crutches should be wider than shoulder width.
For the Mobileg style crutches, stand with upright posture with the correct crutch in each hand labeled left and right. Place the saddle under your arm, 2-3 finger widths from your armpit. Then adjust the top portion of the crutch so that your elbow is slightly bent with your hands on the grips. Next, adjust the bottom portion of the crutch so that the rocker bottom is 6 inches in front of your toes. With these crutches, you have to adjust the top and the bottom of them. If you need to re-adjust the top to get the hand grips at the correct height, make sure you re-adjust the bottom half, so it’s still the correct overall height.
How to Walk with Your Crutches
Walking with crutches can be a challenge! If your doctor recommends you don’t put any weight on your injured or surgically repaired leg, stand with that leg off the ground. Bring your crutches slightly ahead of your stance foot. Placing weight through your hands via the hand grips of the crutches, hop forward in line of the crutches, and repeat.
For a toe touch weight bearing gait pattern, stand with your big toe down on your injured leg. Bring your crutches slightly ahead of your stance foot. Then bring your injured/surgical leg to the line of the crutches and land on your toe with most of your weight through your hands on the crutches. Finally, bring your non-involved leg forward in line with the crutches, keeping your weight through your hands as you do this.
For a foot flat, partial weight bearing pattern, take your injured leg, and stand with your foot flat, but only place a small amount of weight through that leg, about 20 pounds. Bring your crutches slightly ahead of your stance foot. Then bring your injured leg to the line of the crutches, landing on your full foot with most of your weight through your hands on the crutches. Finally, bring your non-involved leg forward in line with the crutches, keeping your weight through your hands as you do this.
Using Crutches: Stairs & Curb Management
Going up and down stairs can seem pretty scary on crutches! A simple mnemonic device to ALWAYS remember is, “up with the good and down with the bad” leg. Also imagine that your injured leg and the crutches are best friends. They HAVE to stay together.
To go up the stairs or a curb when you are non-weight bearing, hold your bad leg off the ground, and stand close to the stair. Pushing through your crutches, hop up to the next stair with your good leg. Bring your crutches up to the level you’re standing on and then repeat up the stairs.
To go down the stairs or a curb, hold your bad leg off the ground, and lower your crutches to the next step down. Pushing through your crutches, lower your good leg to that step. And carefully repeat down the steps.
If you are toe touch weight bearing, stand close to the stair, and place your good foot on the stair while you are pushing through your crutches. Your crutches will stay with your bad leg. Then use your good leg to raise your bad leg to the stair, place your toe on the stair, and follow with your crutches. Repeat up the stairs.
To go down the stairs or a curb, place your crutches on the lower stair and then place your bad leg on the lower stair with your toes touching the ground. Push through your crutches as you lower your good leg to the stair. Repeat down the stairs.
If you’re foot flat, weight bearing status, it’s similar to what you just saw, but your foot will be flat. Stand close to the stair, and as you push through your crutches, place your good foot on the stair. Your crutches will stay with your bad leg. Then use your good leg to raise your bad leg to the stair, place your foot flat on the stair, and your crutches follow. Repeat up the stairs.
To go down the stairs or a curb, place your crutches on the lower stair and then place your bad leg on the lower stair with your foot flat keeping weight through your crutches. Push through your crutches as you lower your good leg to the stair. Repeat down the stairs.
How to Put on a Gait Belt
If your doctor or physician recommends using a gait belt to help with your mobility issues, it’s important to know how to properly secure it. And having someone there to help out is essential!
Place the belt around individual’s waist while facing them. The teeth of the belt should point toward the individual’s midline. Feed the belt through the side with the teeth, from back to front.
It’s important to feed into the teeth side first so that the belt stays securely fastened. Tighten the belt holding the teeth open and pulling away from the teeth, then feed the loop through the other side of the clasp. Make sure the belt is tightened snuggly around the individual, like this! Good to go.